The Syracuse Orange got it done last night against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. And while that doesn’t seal up an NCAA Tournament bid, it does keep SU firmly in the conversation for a spot, win or lose against North Carolina tonight.
Syracuse’s efforts are only half of it, however. Along with scoring wins of their own, we also need to keep an eye on bid-stealers and bubble teams that advance further than we’d like them to in their own conference tournaments.
The Orange won’t play until 9:30 p.m. ET tonight. But before, during and after that matchup with UNC, here are the teams and games you’ll need to be keeping an eye on. We’ll be updating this daily for the rest of the week.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs did us a favor last night, by beating potential bid-stealer BYU in the West Coast Conference championship, 74-54. Between that and the Cougars’ upset over St. Mary’s the night before, the WCC could end up a one-bid league this year — which could only help SU.
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Louisville’s not “in” with a win here, but they may be out with a loss. Computer numbers are solid, but they don’t have the BIG victory to make the resume stand out. Beating FSU would mean all of their best wins (four) are against Virginia Tech and the ‘Noles.
Those Xavier and Kansas wins are getting further in the rearview mirror for the Sun Devils. Advancing a couple rounds in the Pac-12 could be needed to show it’s stopped the recent slide.
Tech’s firmly in. But I guess I’ll entertain the ND talk with Bonzie Colson back. A win over the Hokies helps ND, but they still have bad losses to Indiana and Ball State with Colson, and fewer top-100 wins than most bubble contenders.
Oklahoma State’s computer numbers are poor, but they also have seven wins over top-50 programs, including a season sweep over Kansas. A Cowboys win over OU would be an eighth top-50, with no bad losses. There’s also a long shot it could also put the Sooners in bubble danger.
Texas has a top-20 strength of schedule, and six top-50 wins. A loss to Iowa State would deal the Horns their first bad loss. A win would give them at least one more chance at grabbing another quality W.
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)
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. 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.
Arizona State Sun Devils (20-10, 8-10 in Pac-12)
See above. The hot start has led to a pretty aggressive fade of late, including a bad loss to Oregon State. With current RPI and SOS numbers now outside the top-50, another win or two couldn’t hurt (and a loss to Colorado definitely would).
Texas Longhorns (18-13, 8-10 in Big 12)
See above. A strong SOS and stable of top-50 wins means Texas just needs to keep adding to its lower total victory count -- though like K-State, their best win is also TCU (bottom half of the top 50).
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.
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)
See above. Computer numbers are the only thing keeping Louisville in this conversation, because the resume doesn’t really have a strong collection of Ws. Beating FSU could do a lot for them, but winning two games is how they’ll feel safe.
Some other teams that could rise up a bit as the week goes on: Oklahoma State, Utah, LSU, Boise State, Notre Dame (with a win today)