Bubble Watch: Ducks have reason to start dancing
Wednesday was the precursor to moving day for teams in the Pac-12, which could have as few as three or as many as eight or nine teams in the Big Dance, and each of the Pac-12 contenders who needed a win got one.
However, Thursday will be the more telling day for hopefuls from the Pac-12 and many other conferences now that the virtual “play-in” rounds are out of the way.
The bubble is still jam-packed, and there’s certainly not room in the field of 68 for everyone, but for now, here’s a look at the state of the bubble watch after Wednesday night’s action:
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were most likely getting a tournament invite regardless of what happened Wednesday night against Texas Tech, and their 80-62 win over the Red Raiders all but makes it a sure thing. Marcus Smart is the kind of dynamic player who can truly change the tilt of a game – he filled the stat sheet against Texas Tech with 18 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and six steals – and you can bet that the nation’s No. 1 seeds are hoping the Pokes don’t fall to an 8- or 9-seed.
Oregon: Like Oklahoma State, Oregon’s NCAA fate was likely sealed long before Wednesday’s win over Oregon State, but it never hurts to have a little padding. The Ducks are one of the hotter teams in basketball right now, and their regular season finale win over Arizona has them believing they can beat anyone – and they may be absolutely right. This is another dangerous middle-seed here.
Colorado: The Buffs already boasted an impressive resume coming into the tournament, with a high RPI and several wins over top-50 teams, but a loss to USC in the Pac-12 first round could have been detrimental to the team’s chances of securing an at-large berth. Colorado staved off the upset against the Trojans Wednesday night, and may well be going dancing regardless of what happens in the second round against Cal, but a win over the Bears Thursday certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Utah: The Utes still have quite a bit of work to do, even after their first-round win over Washington on Wednesday, and a win over top-seeded Arizona Thursday afternoon could be just the victory they need to punch their first ticket to the dance in the Larry Krystkowiak era.
Stanford: The Cardinal played one of the strongest schedules in the country, and that alone may already have them in the field of 68. Wednesday’s win over lowly Washington State won’t likely be the difference between getting in and being NIT-bound, but a loss could have been enough to knock them out of the NCAA field. Up next is Arizona State in a huge game for both teams.
UTEP: There are certainly more deserving teams than the Miners, who have an RPI of 94 and just three wins to six losses against their counterparts in the RPI top 100. But after Wednesday’s win over East Carolina in the C-USA first round, Tim Floyd’s squad has a prime chance to make a last-ditch pitch for their inclusion in the field of 68. In all likelihood, UTEP will have to win the conference championship and earn the league’s auto bid to secure their fate, but an impressive showing against Southern Miss on Thursday and, likely, Louisiana Tech on Friday could help sway the selection committee regardless of what happens in a potential championship game.
MAYBE NEXT YEAR:
Boston U: To the surprise of no one, the Patriot League will be a one-bid league, and the top-seeded Terriers’ only chance to lock up an NCAA bid was with a win over American in the league championship Wednesday. Had the result been close, perhaps BU fans could have held out the slightest bit of (false) hope that an at-large bid could be coming their way, but a 19-point loss to the Patriots removed all doubt.