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Bubble watch: Most things coming up Syracuse

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(aside from the possible dread around a positive test keeping us home, of course)

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

While there is that pesky situation about whether Syracuse Orange men’s basketball will remain clear of COVID protocols, the last couple days have found a way to be fairly positive for Syracuse — despite losing to Virginia on Thursday.

Since the start of the ACC Tournament, Syracuse has largely trended upward from first or second team out, all the way to potentially being clear of the play-in game. Several bubble teams are virtually eliminated. Others are completely eliminated. And the NCAA also decided that those wrong-side-of-the-bubble schemes to get in one last win ain’t happening.

Given our tendencies around here, however, we’re not going to believe we’re in until we’re actually in. So instead of setting Syracuse apart from the rest of the bubble competitors, we’re just going to lump the remaining handful of teams together.

For the most part, there are really only six teams left in contention for five spots. Seton Hall’s done after losing to Georgetown. Same for Ole Miss after losing to LSU. The other possible bid-stealers right now who could also mess this up: Fellow bubble squad Memphis.

Friday’s results below (bubble teams in bold).

  • Utah State 62, Colorado State 50
  • LSU 76, Ole Miss 73
  • Memphis 70, UCF 62
  • Georgetown 66, Seton Hall 58
  • Cincinnati 74, SMU 71

SMU’s eliminated at this point. You could make similar assumptions about Xavier, now that they can’t add a game a non-conference game to boost their resume. And Seton Hall, after losing to Georgetown.

Saint Louis, however, is an interesting case. They put together a solid season, yet have seemed to need something more. There have been enough losses on the bubble to make that less of a problem, and the Billikens now have to hope their resume beats Colorado State/Utah State.

So as mentioned, that leaves six teams for five spots, since Memphis would probably need to win the AAC auto bid to make it. Those teams:

(NET as of Thursday’s games — will update in the morning)

Louisville Cardinals (13-7, 56th in NET, 4-4 road record, 1-5 vs. Quad 1)

Louisville’s NET has been trending in the wrong direction, they lost their only conference tournament game and have one Quad 1 win, while going 4-6 in their last 10 games. The differentiator, as it has been, are the four road wins. That’s not enough to completely separate them from the rest of the bubble.

Syracuse Orange (16-9, 40th in NET, 2-7 road record, 1-7 vs. Quad 1)

SU’s played more games than Louisville, which could help. They have a better NET by a mile, won a conference tournament game and went to the wire with a very good Virginia team in the other. UNC could wind up a Quad 1 win, giving them two of those. They’re also 6-4 over the last 10 games.

Drake Bulldogs (23-4, 43rd in NET, 9-2 road record, 1-2 vs. Quad 1)

Drake’s been off for a bit, but bubble losses seem to have helped them out. Main knock here — and one that could hurt considerably — is that their strength of schedule is 191st per ESPN. The question is whether or not that’s held against the Bulldogs given the limitations around scheduling this season.

Utah State Aggies (19-7, 37th in NET, 6-3 road record, 2-4 vs. Quad 1)

Utah State took care of Colorado State (late) on Friday night, and now appear to be in pretty good shape to nab a bid. The Aggies are a top-40 team by NET, own two wins over San Diego State and have 10 wins away from home. That sounds like enough.

Colorado State Rams (17-6, 51st in NET, 4-4 road record, 2-4 vs. Quad 1)

The Rams do own wins over both Utah State and San Diego State, but have also lost to both (the Aggies twice). Colorado State’s other big positive is eight wins away from home. On the negative side, they’re outside the top 50 in NET and the resume’s pretty limited regarding big wins. I just don’t think the loser of last night’s game is 100% out.

Saint Louis Billikens (14-6, 45th in NET, 1-4 road record, 2-3 vs. Quad 1)

As mentioned Saint Louis is still hanging around and replaces Ole Miss as the sixth team in the scenario described above. If they’re in right now, it’s as a replacement for Colorado State/Utah State.

Ole Miss Rebels (16-11, 53rd in NET, 5-6 road record, 3-5 vs. Quad 1)

Ole Miss kept it close vs. LSU, but couldn’t get the win. That significantly derails their odds at taking one of the at-large bids in question. The resume isn’t bad, and there are things to like about the road record and Quad 1 results. Yet, too many losses and NET’s not high enough to look past those.

***

And the team that can play spoiler by nabbing an auto bid and shrinking the at-large pool by one.

Memphis Tigers (16-7, 52nd in NET, 4-3 road record, 0-3 vs. Quad 1)

Memphis beat UCF, which does nothing but keep them alive. A win over UCF is a decent start, yet they probably need to beat Houston at the very least to be a real bubble contender against the group above. More likely. they’ll need to take the AAC title — meaning a win over both the Cougars and either Wichita State or Cincinnati.

We’re not out of the woods yet, but this at least creates some optimism for us as we head to Saturday. Now let’s hope nothing changes on the COIVD front for the Orange...