The Syracuse Orange are far from out of the woods in terms of securing an NCAA Tournament bid. However, Saturday’s road victory over the Miami Hurricanes at least gave them a helpful boost.
SU’s not the only team battling for an at-large spot, though. And many of those squads are also helping themselves quite a bit with quality wins.
So as we enter another critical week for the Orange — facing North Carolina and visiting Duke -- which squads should we be keeping a close eye on?
Your bubble watch:
Louisville Cardinals (18-9, 8-6 in ACC)
Last game: L, 93-76 vs. North Carolina
This week: at Duke, at Virginia Tech
Louisville’s in a precarious spot, without many big wins (Florida State, Virginia Tech) and two tough road dates this week. The Cardinals have lost to Syracuse, and while the head-to-head isn’t an automatic advantage, it certainly helps the Orange. If they win at Duke on Wednesday, however, it should remove most doubts.
Texas Longhorns (16-11, 6-8 in Big 12)
Last game: W, 77-66 at Oklahoma
This week: at Kansas State, vs. Oklahoma State
Texas has a strong non-conference schedule, plus a win over Texas Tech and two wins over Oklahoma. But a losing Big 12 record probably won’t do them any favors come selection time likely won’t help them out unless the Longhorns win a game or two in the league tournament.
St. Bonaventure Bonnies (20-6, 10-4 in Atlantic 10)
Last game: W, 77-74 vs. Rhode Island
This week: vs. Duquesne, at VCU
The Bonnies have a victory over Syracuse, plus a better win than anything on the Orange’s resume, over Rhode Island this past Friday. Wins over Buffalo and Maryland also help make the teams look even more similar. SU’s strength of schedule is tougher given the difficulty of the ACC. But that’s unlikely to be enough to make a difference if St. Bonaventure winds up a 25- or 26-win A-10 runner-up.
Baylor Bears (17-10, 7-7 in Big 12)
Last game: W, 59-57 vs. Texas Tech
This week: vs. West Virginia, at TCU
Baylor’s played their way back in of late, with major upsets over Kansas and Texas Tech, both at home. There’s not much quality on the rest of the resume, despite a stronger strength of schedule. Like SU, the Bears will close with a chance to play themselves into the field. Baylor closes with four likely NCAA Tournament teams.
NC State Wolfpack (18-9, 8-6 in ACC)
Last game: W, 90-84 at Wake Forest
This week: vs. Boston College, vs. Florida State
State’s another team that’s beaten the Orange, and have several quality wins (North Carolina, Clemson, Duke, Arizona) SU can’t and won’t be able to touch. It’s an easier slate from here on out for the Pack, which is good in some ways. But also presents little opportunity to add to their case until the ACC Tournament.
UCLA Bruins (19-8, 10-5 in Pac-12)
Last game: W, 86-78 win vs. Oregon
This week: at Utah, at Colorado
The Pac-12 being down this year doesn’t help UCLA, but they do own wins over Arizona and Kentucky. Advantages over fringe conference foes like USC and Washington are helpful too, though only in terms of comparing all of their at-large chances. UCLA needs another big win to feel completely safe, but the schedule doesn’t have won until the Pac-12 title game (Arizona, if they get there).
USC Trojans (19-9, 10-5 in Pac-12)
Last game: W, 72-59 win vs. Oregon State
This week: at Colorado, at Utah
USC lacks the marquee wins that UCLA has, lost to the Bruins head-to-head, and maybe has one or two more quality losses. Beyond that, USC doesn’t really stack up well against most fellow bubble teams — including the Orange. Like UCLA, the last chance for a big win is in the Pac-12 title game.
Washington Huskies (18-9, 8-6 in Pac-12)
Last game: W, 82-59 win vs. Colorado
This week: at Stanford, at California
Unlike the Trojans, UW has big wins on the resume — at Kansas, vs. Arizona and Arizona State. A bad recent loss to Oregon State won’t reflect well. But not as poorly as a potential loss to Cal this week would. Hopkins’s Huskies might be alright if they just keep winning. A loss to Arizona/ASU/UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament wouldn’t necessarily damage them (though falling to someone else might).
Penn State Nittany Lions (19-9, 9-6 in Big Ten)
Last game: L, 78-73 at Purdue
This week: vs. Michigan, at Nebraska
Penn State did nothing in non-conference play, but swept Ohio State — hence why they’re still in this conversation despite a down Big Ten beyond the top spots. A win over Michigan this week would boost them, and another over Nebraska would knock the Huskers out of the conversation. PSU likely still needs a win or two in Big Ten play.
Some other teams that could potentially creep up (from below, not counting those that fall onto the bubble): Temple, Utah, Nebraska, LSU, Marquette, Western Kentucky, Georgia. But we’ll focus on the nine profiled above for the time being.