Bubble Watch: Monday Viewing Guide
Ugh. As little as I like this particular day, I do think it's better than the old days, if only because unlike our friends in Arizona and Hawaii, we no longer have to spend the entire day explaining "no, we're on the same time as (familiar city X) now." (I don't know how they do it in Hawaii. Would a reference to Kiribati even matter? Also, random fact: Hawaii is currently on Whiskey Time right now.) Anyway, despite the rough start, I'm here to guide your basketball viewing for the seventh day of Championship "Week". (The Horizon League started its tournament on Tuesday.) Let's do this thing. Obviously you're all aware that for a little less than 20 minutes, the Good Guys cruelly taunted John Groce's Illini squad, allowing them to believe that they had a chance at a solid road win. Despite a rough finish, Purdue grabbed a much-needed 20th win, earning a bye until Friday, and Illinois kept the #8 seed, giving them a second-round game against #9 Michigan, the low-upside, high-risk matchup you get in that part of the draw. Would you want your tournament hopes to rest on beating Wisconsin? Good thing we're not Illinois fans. Anyway, that game is Thursday, and Purdue will take the court at 1:30ish on Friday against Iowa, Nebraska (lol) or Penn State (many lols). What's on tap for today?
Current Status: In
Bracket Matrix: 11.01 average seed, in 72 of 83 brackets. That's a tiny bump.
Lunardi: third 11 seed, facing 6-seed Providence in Columbus; 43rd on the S curve, up 1 spot.
dratings: first 12 seed, up 1 spot. Indiana's now the second 12, but Illinois is still ahead of Purdue. Huh. I guess these things happen if you struggle in November.
kenpom: 48th, no change.
RPI: 56th, up 5 spots. RPI saw the Illinois win and was pleased: Indiana is 57th, Illinois is 59th. That might be an important order come Sunday.
Monday's Top Games
WCC Semifinal: #6 Portland (17-14, RPI 137) vs. #2 BYU (24-8, RPI 44), 11:30 on ESPN2*
BYU is directly behind Purdue on Lunardi's S curve. They swept the Pilots during the regular season, so for this game, you want to invoke the "difficult to beat a team three times" meme. A loss here would all but push the Cougars into the NIT; in general, the Last Four In aren't safely in until the field is announced. While we don't want Portland to win the conference, they can help out the Boilers by smoothing a path for Gonzaga and preventing BYU from getting another marquee win - the Cougars' only win over a top-50 RPI was February 28 at Gonzaga.
WCC Semifinal: #4 Pepperdine (18-12, RPI 136) vs. #1 Gonzaga (30-2, RPI 7), 9:00 on ESPN
Conversely, you want Gonzaga to roll here. Other bubble teams would love to see the West Coast as a one-bid conference. Don't count out the Waves, though. They swept BYU, split with Saint Mary's, and lost two close games to Gonzaga: a two-point loss at home and an eight-point loss at Gonzaga. March is about teams taking the next step forward, and if Pepperdine can do that, someone on the bubble is going to pay. (Maybe even BYU.)
Three conferences have their championship games today: Colonial (7:00, NBCSN), Metro Atlantic (9:00, ESPN2), and Southern (7:00, ESPN2). The Colonial final pits 92 William & Mary against 96 Northeastern. Iona won the Metro Atlantic and has a sparkly 51 RPI, but their best win is at 124 Wake Forest. They're not getting an at-large bid. Wofford's RPI is nearly the same (50 - in fact, they beat Iona in November or else they might be reversed), and the Terriers have a win at 43 NC State to their credit, but they also have bad losses at 20 West Virginia and 3 Duke. They're a 12 seed in Lunardi's bracket only because they're a strong auto-bid, not because they're near the bubble.
*reminder: ESPN and ESPN2 games can only be seen on WatchESPN if you have a login for a television provider