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Syracuse basketball bubble watch: March 6

Which teams and games are we focused on today?

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

As you’re certainly aware, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is sitting squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble right now, and needs to keep winning to fix that predicament.

However, that’s only half of it. Along with taking care of its own business this week (I’d argue at least two wins), Syracuse also has to hope that additional problems aren’t created by bid-stealers or other bubble teams advancing further than we’d like them to.

SU plays at 7 p.m. ET tonight. But before, during and after that clash with Wake Forest, here are the teams and games you’ll need to be keeping an eye on. We’ll be updating this daily as long as the Orange beat Wake.


BYU Cougars vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs

BYU helped Syracuse and the rest of the bubble out a bit on Monday night, by upsetting the Saint Mary’s Gaels. That doesn’t necessarily knock St. Mary’s out. However, it’s also worth arguing that a team with a resume leaning on one win over Gonzaga and another over New Mexico State -- plus a strength of schedule of 225 -- isn’t really a contender for a bid. Now, however, we’re rooting against BYU, since a win here would steal the West Coast Conference’s auto-bid (giving the Zags an at-large spot).

No other teams or games happening Tuesday night should affect Syracuse. However, these are the names to watch out for (right now) as Championship Week progresses:


NCAA Basketball: Butler at Seton Hall Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Butler Bulldogs (19-12, 9-9 in Big East)

The Bulldogs have five top-50 wins, including one monster upset over Villanova. And while the computer numbers look good, the committee likely has some questions given the lackluster play lately and the 2-5 finish (including losses to St. John’s and Seton Hall to close the season). Butler starts the Big East Tournament on Thursday against Seton Hall. A loss there won’t kill them, but it makes things far more precarious.

St. Mary’s Gaels (28-4, 16-2 in WCC)

See above. SMC has just two top-50 wins and four top-100 wins, and that leans heavily on two regular season victories over BYU, plus the aforementioned Gonzaga and NMSU wins. They’ll be sweating it out.

St. Bonaventure Bonnies (24-6, 14-4 in Atlantic 10)

A top-25 RPI, top-100 SOS and three top-40 wins (Syracuse, Rhode Island, Buffalo) should be enough for the Bonnies. St. Bonaventure has won 12 straight games now and awaits its next opponent on Friday in the A-10 Tournament. There’s a chance they could be left out, I guess, if they’re upset in the first game. But realistically, we should probably root for them to win the league and boost SU’s SOS a bit.

Kansas State Wildcats (21-10, 10-8 in Big 12)

State’s big win is over TCU, and their RPI (62) and SOS (94) aren’t overly impressive. To be honest, the Wildcats probably need to beat the Frogs again when they face off on Thursday in the Big 12 Tournament if they want to feel completely safe. Still, they do have nine wins over top-100 teams, which helps.

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State Sun Devils (20-10, 8-10 in Pac-12)

ASU started the year pretty hot, but has since faded quite a bit. They’ve lost four of five, with a bad defeat at Oregon State. Also, both the RPI and SOS numbers are now outside of the top 50. The Sun Devils probably did enough to help themselves early, with wins over both Xavier and Kansas. If they lose to Colorado on Wednesday, it’s probably time to worry.

Texas Longhorns (18-13, 8-10 in Big 12)

UT has more losses than everyone else but Alabama, but also has an SOS of 17, and six top-50 wins (including their most recent over West Virginia). They can make the field without pulling a major upset. Still, it would be an easier path for them if they can pick up yet another win over one of the Big 12’s top schools. Currently, their best victory is TCU. Texas plays Iowa State in the league tournament on Wednesday.

USC Trojans (21-10, 12-6 in Pac-12)

Middle Tennessee and New Mexico State are USC’s top wins. And if Utah manages to lose in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, that could knock the Trojans’ two wins over the Utes out of the top 50 in the RPI. USC’s league record is great, obviously, but the Pac-12 had a pretty rough season. They also have bad losses to Princeton and SMU.

UCLA Bruins (20-10, 11-7 in Pac-12)

I’d argue the Bruins are in better shape than USC, having five top-50 wins, including two over the Trojans, plus victories away from home vs. Kentucky and Arizona. They could use another victory to be completely sure and power through the usual chaos. However, The RPI of 39 and SOS of 59 are probably good enough for now.

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Texas A&M C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Crimson Tide (17-14, 8-10 in SEC)

If true road games are emphasized this year, Alabama’s 2-8 record won’t help them, nor will the 14 total losses. Still, they’ve played 14 games against top-50 schools and have a 6-8 record in those contests. That includes wins over Auburn, Tennessee, Rhode Island and Texas A&M — all top 25 in the RPI right now. There are bad losses here to Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Minnesota, and they have lost five straight. Despite all of it, though, ‘Bama could likely seal a bid with a win over Texas A&M on Thursday.

Baylor Bears (17-13, 8-10 in Big 12)

Baylor’s boosted by its 12th-ranked SOS, and six top-50 wins (including one over Kansas). The Bears’ own RPI is outside the top 50 right now but that could change quickly with a game against West Virginia to start the Big 12 Tourney. This resume is weird, but the Big 12 kind of manufactures these sorts of things as a rule. They might be able to get in with a W over the Mountaineers.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (23-6, 16-2 in C-USA)

MTSU has an RPI of 27, but an SOS of 77 and zero top-50 victories. The resume largely leans on road wins over Murray State, Western Kentucky and Old Dominion. As much as they’re in the at-large conversation right now, no one in the C-USA Tournament can really improve those numbers. Their best, and maybe only, path to the NCAAs is winning the league.

Marquette Golden Eagles (18-12, 9-9 in Big East)

MUBB’s owned Seton Hall and Creighton (four wins total) this year, and the additional win at Providence gives them four top-50 victories. Their lone bad loss is to DePaul, but they have a chance to sort of avenge it tomorrow against the Blue Demons. If you’re asking right now, I think Marquette’s out with an RPI currently outside the top 50. A win or two in the Big East Tournament would potentially fix that, though.

Louisville Cardinals (19-12, 9-9 in ACC)

Louisville’s best win is at Florida State, and its other two top-50s are both against Virginia Tech. All three of those games are hanging at the bottom end of the top tier, which presents some problems for the Cards. While they’ve played a lot of games against top foes, they haven’t really won many (three of 14). Computer numbers are strong enough, but they need a win or two in the ACC Tournament to truly stand out.

Some other teams that could rise up a bit as the week goes on: Oklahoma State, Utah, LSU, Boise State... Nebraska and Penn State are probably out of it.