Bubble Watch: Friday Viewing Guide
I've got to lead this one off with an apology: my Friday is booked, so I had to get most of the content together as it happened Thursday. If there are any errors below, they're totally the fault of people who are making me do work instead of focusing on HOOPS. Fortunately, there are no conference championships Thursday or Friday, so I can skip that section. Anyway, the Good Guys are in action today, so obviously you will all put aside your responsibilities and watch the game while I'm sitting in a cube doing someone else's work because of things. ENOUGH STORIES. Let us review and preview.
Bad breaks for Purdue: Penn State continues its eastward rampage through the conference, topping Iowa 67-58 to give Purdue another pass/fail game. Tennessee upset Vanderbilt, making yet another Purdue loss look worse.
Good breaks for Purdue: Michigan threw Illinois' tournament hopes behind its back and dunked them into the trash, Auburn pushed Texas A&M off the bubble, and Middle Tennessee ended Old Dominion's chances. Miami played 20 terrible minutes against Notre Dame, managed to recover in the second half, but couldn't quite hold it together; the solid game may help a bit, but not as much as an upset win would have. Iowa State stunned Texas at the buzzer; that shouldn't hurt the Longhorns' RPI, but it's much better for the Boilers than if Texas had maintained the 16-point lead they held at one point. Oklahoma posted a solid win over Oklahoma State, which might well push the Cowboys below Purdue on the S curve ... at least for now. (Spoiler: it did not.) South Carolina edged Mississippi, which should drop the Rebels below Purdue. (Spoiler: it did.)
Current status: In
Information below is current as of the date/time listed.
Bracket Matrix: as of 8:13 AM today, Purdue's at 10.88, 104 of 107.
Lunardi: as of today, Purdue is now the second 11 seed, up one spot.
dratings: as of 8:23 AM today, Purdue is the third 11 seed, down three spots from Thursday's viewing guide.
kenpom: through Thursday's games, Purdue is 48th, no change from Thursday's guide.
RPI: as of today, Purdue is 58th, up one spot from Thursday's guide. (Note that RPI values below are from Thursday, not Friday.)
#4 Purdue (20-11, RPI 59) vs. #13 Penn State (18-15, RPI 108), 2:30 on ESPN
The good news is that Penn State's been boosting its RPI. The bad news is that it's nowhere near Iowa's, which means this is yet another win-or-else game for a bubble team. Purdue might be able to survive a loss here, but I wouldn't care to test that.
The Good Guys played Penn State just once, winning 84-77 in overtime on the road in January. That is not the same team that finished on a 9-3 run, losing three road games by a total of 14 points, but perhaps Penn State is not the team that had two six-game losing streaks in conference play. PSU has won three in a row, all away from home, and two of those opponents were at least respectable (Minnesota and Iowa). The Boilers have to bring the defense this time; 1.07 PPP is not something a Penn State-caliber team should register against tournament-bound opposition.
Other top games
SEC quarterfinals: #13 Auburn (13-19, RPI 160) vs. #4 LSU (22-9, RPI 48), 3:30 on SEC Network
LSU is three spots ahead of Purdue on Thursday's S curve, so while they have a little more breathing room, they could use a quality win as well. Unfortunately for them, they'll face Auburn rather than Texas A&M, and those Tigers aren't going to help anything. Auburn will be playing their third game in three nights, while LSU had a bye to the quarters, so even though those Tigers are relatively deep (33.8% bench minutes, a bit above average) and LSU's Tigers are not (21.3%, 346th in DI; Syracuse and UCLA are the only major-conference teams with less depth, but then American is last and they won their tournament), that won't be enough for Tigers the Lesser to defeat Tigers the Greater. Root for Auburn anyway - it builds character.
AAC quarterfinals: #5 Memphis (18-13, RPI 81) vs. #4 Temple (22-9, RPI 33), 2:00 on ESPN2
Temple may not have to outrun the bear (the 'Canes? the 'Cane?) as long as it can outrun Indiana, but IU picked up an extra conference tournament win, for what it's worth (which is probably nothing). They won't be outrunning Memphis, although given the Owls' struggles on offense (189th overall, 6th in AAC play), maybe they should. With both teams clearly better on the defensive end, I'd recommend you skip this one and just watch for updates. Temple's not likely to push Purdue unless they win an unexpected game and the Boilers lose one ... but they can stay ahead of Indiana simply by matching them. You want the Owls to win here.
Big Ten quarterfinals: #7 Indiana (20-12, RPI 58) vs. #2 Maryland (26-5, RPI 9), 6:30 on BTN
So the conference semifinals will feature either a team that was completely underwhelming in its last 12 games or a team that blew out pretty much nobody on their schedule and lost by 24 at Ohio State and by 16 at Iowa. A win by Indiana, coupled with Texas' loss to Iowa State, gives Tom Crean a bit of a break, at least until conference tournaments finish up. If Maryland wins this, it wouldn't surprise me if Indiana skips postseason play entirely. The only thing worse for the Indiana fan base than missing the NCAAs again would be losing in an NIT first-round game ... and it's not out of the question for said fan base to raise enough cash over the weekend to buy Crean a couple years' paid vacation.
Did I mention that my cat finished second in a 2002 pool because Maryland beat Indiana in the title game? It was awesome.
Other games in Chicago
#9 Michigan (16-15, RPI 83) vs. #1 Wisconsin (28-3, RPI 5), noon on ESPN
Michigan has two wins over DII opponents, so their best shot at an NIT bid is getting two wins in conference tournament play. Unfortunately, as the 9 seed, that means one of them has to be against Wisconsin. Anything's possible with John Beilein on the sidelines, but this would be an extraordinary effort from him and his team. The Badgers don't want to drop to a 3 seed in the NCAAs, so they need this win. They'll get it.
#6 Ohio State (23-9, RPI 42) vs. #3 Michigan State (21-10, RPI 27), 9:00 on BTN
Ohio State spent about 35 minutes playing evenly with Minnesota and about 5 minutes outplaying them. Fortunately for them, the Buckeyes are solidly in the tournament, but I don't see them moving off the 8 line - this is a one-and-done team in more ways than one. Michigan State fans shouldn't settle for anything less than a Sunday matchup; if it's anyone other than Wisconsin, they should expect a title.
The Best of the Rest
Notre Dame survived a scare against Miami to earn a spot against Duke in the ACC semis (9:00 on ESPN). They might slip a line if Baylor upsets Kansas and the Irish don't get past Duke. Butler managed to get to OT against Xavier, but couldn't overcome miserable shooting from everywhere. At least Kellen Dunham got my DraftKings team 20 points. (That's right, that's a referral link. I'm thisclose to having enough referrals to pay for the bag of jelly beans I bought at the store tonight. The next sugar-fueled post could be sponsored ... by you!)
Tulsa faces 10-seed Houston rather than 7-seed Tulane in the AAC quarterfinals (7:00 on ESPNU), but it doesn't really matter; either team would have meant a terrible opponent for the Golden Hurricane, who must win and get help. UCLA will play top seed Arizona in the Pac-12 semis (9:00 on Pac-12 Network), and that game will almost certainly end their tournament hopes.