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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, January 22nd

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Recap the impact of the weekend & look ahead to the biggest games this week

TCU Basketball vs West Virginia, January 22, 2018 (Fort Worth, TX)
TCU Basketball vs West Virginia, January 22, 2018 (Fort Worth, TX)
Melissa Triebwasser

*Note: All info below is prior to games of 1/22, including TCU’s huge victory over WVU. That win is certainly a significant step, but it does not lock TCU into the Big Dance. Last season, TCU beat #1 Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament to top off a solid season and still ended up with a 4-seed in the NIT. A dominant top-ten win provides a résumé boost and some cushion over other competitors, but will soon be forgotten if the Frogs drop upcoming games against lesser opponents while other Bubble teams book big wins. We all know that when Committees are involved, TCU must leave no doubt, so consider our Frogs a Bubble team until Selection Sunday.

Frog Status

Current KenPom Rank: 25 (↓2)

Opponent Average KenPom Rank: 81 (-)

Another terribly slow start, another 8-point halftime deficit, another demoralizing Big 12 defeat. K-State led every second of this game and every time TCU had that chance to close or overcome the gap, KSU would hit a big shot or force a turnover. To put up one of the worst offensive game of the season (31% from 3-point range and 43% from the field) and only lose by five is somewhat encouraging, especially as the offense was getting good shots. The Frogs will need those open looks to go in, as there will likely be fewer opportunities with Press Virginia coming to Fort Worth Monday. (Note: those shots did go in)

Weekend’s Biggest Impacts

· #43 Texas (↓8) vs #9 West Virginia (↑2) – The Longhorns must have celebrated a bit too much following their huge win over Texas Tech, as they promptly went to Morgantown and got waxed by 35 points. Texas can right the ship on Monday, hosting a suddenly frisky #94 Iowa State. *Whispers* It is possible WVU puts up a similar performance in the Schollmaier Monday, sending our Frogs tumbling into dangerous territory. (Note: LOL, I was wrong about this one...)

· #33 Kentucky (↓4) vs # 20 Florida (↑4) Back-to-back SEC losses has Kentucky in the unfamiliar waters of the 3rd Tier of the Bubble. Coach Cal’s guys need to clean it up against Mississippi State before its own date with the Mountaineers for the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Gators leap into the Top Tier and could legitimately run the table, with only three games against Top-50 teams the rest of the season.

On the Move

· #36 Butler (↑6) – A big bounce back from a bad loss at Providence by taking care of DePaul and getting a break before hosting Big East doormat St. John’s on Saturday.

· #30 Rhode Island (↑4) – The Rams scare me as a potential bid-thief. They are likely to remain safely in the top 50 all season and are by far the best team in the A-10, which should be a single-bid league this year (the next best team is #60 Davidson with only 10 wins on the season). A URI loss in the conference tourney would burst a bubble.

· #40 Seton Hall (↓7) – Seton Hall reached as high as #18 two weeks ago, but after suffering a five-spot drop with last week’s loss to Creighton they took the plunge into Tier Four of the Bubble with Saturday’s 9-point loss vs. Xavier. The Pirates get the week off to prepare for #113 DePaul on Sunday, where a loss could burst their Bubble.

· #31 Notre Dame (↓6) – No shame in losing at #13 Clemson, but similar to TCU, the Irish need to start banking résumé wins if they want the Committee to look favorably on their Tier 3 Bubble performance thus far - - a big opportunity next Monday in front of the Cameron Crazies

Bubbles Burst

· # 53 Alabama (↓3) – A close home win over #82 Miss State does not impress the KenPom calculations; paired with big victories by other fringe Bubble teams, the Tide’s pod burst. But a trip to #85 Ole Miss should serve as Poison Control, guiding Alabama‘s season back to health.

· # 54 Virginia Tech (↓5) – The Hokies can jump right back into the discussion with huge opportunities against UNC Monday and Notre Dame on Saturday

New Faces

· #47 New Mexico State – A 27-point victory is the type of game that impresses KenPom, even if it was against something called Utah Valley. I don’t expect these Aggies to steal an at-large bid, but if they keep winning big they have to be taken seriously, even if their logo is the cowboy from the Village People

· #50 BYU – Having carved out their position as the #3 team in the WCC and beating up on the teams below them, BYU joins the Bubble party just in time to meet #16 Saint Mary’s this week…hope the Cougars enjoy these few days on the Bubble.

Look Ahead Bubble Impact

· #37 Kansas St. vs. #39 Baylor – Monday January 22

· #28 Miami vs. #34 Louisville – Wednesday January 24

· #17 Auburn vs. #35 Mizzou – Wednesday January 24