Bubble Watch: Thursday Viewing Guide
Conference tournaments begin in earnest today. (CBS welcomes you to Earnest, TX, home of the Big 24 Tournament! Don't forget to tip your server.) With 60 games on tap today, chances are that by the time I finish this post, some of them will be well underway. In that case, just pretend that you were going to read this before noon, but you got sidetracked listening to the Purdue Basketball Beat. (You did listen, right? What? Well, go do it now. I'll wait.)
Last night's results
OK, everyone's back? Good. I took one for the team and watched a couple of bubble-related games. Kansas State lost to a TCU team with a low RPI but much higher kenpom rank, again because of the strength of the Big 12, and as a result, the Wildcats dropped to RPI 91, making another one of Purdue's losses look worse. woo.
Texas followed that game by pulling out to an early lead on Texas Tech and never letting the Red Raiders back into it. That preserves the status quo, keeping the Longhorns in the tournament for now.
Miami beat Virginia Tech by 10 in a game where the better team didn't even hit 1 PPP. I did not watch that game.
Lafayette edged American to take the Patriot League title; North Florida fans might have reason to be disappointed if the Leopards end up higher on the S curve.
Current status: In
Bracket Matrix: 10.92, 108 of 114. They haven't updated much recently.
Lunardi: third 11 seed, etc. etc. No change.
dratings: fourth 10 seed, down 1 spot. Remember, it's as much about what other teams are doing as what Purdue is (or is not) doing.
kenpom: 48th, no change.
RPI: 59th, down 1 spot. WHY KANSAS STATE WHY
Today's top games
Big Ten second round: #9 Michigan (15-15, RPI 83) vs. #8 Illinois (19-12, RPI 60), 12:00 on BTN
These two teams split their regular-season games in OT, although Michigan's better performance was when Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert were healthy. While RPI won't acknowledge any difference, the selection committee might, which makes this a must-win game for Illinois. The Illini have a lot of ground to make up in two days ... starting tomorrow. Winning today just makes it possible - the real test is Wisconsin tomorrow, and even beating the Badgers likely won't be enough to push Illinois into the field. I'm obviously rooting for Michigan, but I think you're safe not to worry: I don't see this Illinois team beating Michigan and Wisconsin and maybe even a Saturday opponent.
SEC second round: #13 Auburn (13-19, RPI 160) vs. #5 Texas A&M (20-10, RPI 55), 3:25 on SEC Network
The Aggies are on the outside looking in mostly due to the lack of a signature win: LSU is their only top-50 victim, and both of those were narrow wins (3 points in Baton Rouge, 6 points in College Station). Auburn would obviously not be that win. The Tigers fell by 25 two weeks ago; expect a similar result today, as the Aggies look ahead to a third matchup with LSU. It's likely that A&M would need to get to the conference final to have a shot at making the tournament, so this is yet another win-or-out game.
C-USA quarterfinals: #6 Middle Tennessee (16-15, RPI 168) vs. #3 Old Dominion (24-6, RPI 39), 3:30 on ASN
The Monarchs also have a win over LSU, as well as a home win over VCU, but have to bear the weight of a weak conference schedule that includes losses to 150+ UAB, UT San Antonio, and Middle Tennessee. As with similar games, ODU has to win to stay alive, but won't move up at all, while a loss will eliminate them.
It would be interesting to see what would happen if Old Dominion were in a different conference. Their only non-conference loss was to Illinois State, who reached the MVC final game. They'd probably have a few more losses, but with a tougher schedule, they might also be in the tournament instead of on the bubble.
Pac-12 quarterfinals: #12 USC (12-19, RPI 197) vs. #4 UCLA (19-12, RPI 50), 5:30 on Pac-12 Network
While USC's first-round upset of Arizona State looks like it might have robbed UCLA of a quality opponent, ASU's RPI is 97. Granted, it'd be a bit higher without that loss, but remember, the conference is very much top-heavy this year. Beyond the top three, there isn't much strength at all. Like other bubble teams, UCLA's going to have to win a couple of games to have a chance at the dance; unlike some of them, because the Pac-12 title game is Saturday, UCLA might get a boost from a close loss in the title game. They might not need it if their semifinal opponent is Arizona; if it's California, they'll need Oregon or Utah in the final.
Big Ten second round: #7 Indiana (19-12, RPI 58) at #10 Northwestern (15-16, RPI 113), 6:30 on ESPN2
The Wildcats' second-half surge earned them a first-round bye, even if only for finishing higher than 11th. Conversely, Indiana spent much of the second half of the Big Tenteen season losing their way onto the bubble; a semi-road game against Northwestern would be the perfect way to finish the job.
It's not inconceivable, either. Part of that slide was a 72-65 loss to Northwestern in Evanston. A second win for NU would put a dagger in Indiana's tournament hopes and further escalate the pressure on Fred Glass to address Tom Crean's status. (Ideally that pressure would be restricted to Indiana games and message boards. Protip: don't harass the coach at his son's basketball games. Even if he does play for Bloomington South. BHSN '85 represent!)
Other games in Chicago
#13 Penn State (17-15, RPI 108) vs. #5 Iowa (21-10, RPI 36), 2:30 on BTN
The four-point loss to the Good Guys in Mackey turned out to be the game that put Iowa in a Thursday game and gave Purdue a bye until Friday, even though their resumes could probably benefit from a reversal of those positions. Iowa's a 7 seed, but can't improve that yet, not against a Penn State squad that played the Hawkeyes tough at home on the 28th, losing 81-77. PSU dispatched hapless Nebraska yesterday and will be looking to earn a spot against the Boilers tomorrow. It's possible that Purdue just needs wins to stay in, but quality wins are better than weak wins. Root for Iowa.
#11 Minnesota (18-14, RPI 92) vs. #6 Ohio State (22-9, RPI 42), 9:00 on ESPN2
The Buckeyes won the lone meeting this season, 74-72 at Minnesota. OSU is nowhere near the bubble, but they're currently a Lunardi 8 seed, and the Buckeyes should probably do what they can to avoid a second-round matchup with any of the 1s. OSU's only top-50 win this year was a 24-point blowout of Maryland, a team whose RPI 9 ranking is widely considered to be much higher than their true strength.
Michigan State awaits in the quarters; they'd like to see Ohio State for the same reason that the Buckeyes need a win. Currently on the 7 line, MSU would benefit from moving away from a 2 and toward a 3. (Unfortunately for them, Maryland won't be waiting for them. Some other lucky 6 will draw the Terrapins.)
The Best of the Rest
Two other Indiana teams are in action today, both late: Notre Dame looks to end Miami's at-large hopes in the ACC quarterfinals (9:00 on ESPN), and Butler has a chance to work on a better seed against Xavier in the Big East quarterfinals (9:30 on FS1).
Mississippi faces 11-seed South Carolina in an SEC second-round game (9:30 on SEC); as with all the others, the Rebels can't improve their seed in this game, but could easily fall down to a play-in game with a loss. Oklahoma State plays in-state rival Oklahoma in a game that would certainly move the Cowboys out of danger if they win; at this point, TCU is the only non-quality opponent left in the Big 12 tournament, so any win is a good win unless you're Kansas.
Go forth and watch basketball.