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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, January 26th

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Frogs make the leap, can’t lose momentum in Nashville

Frog Status

Current KenPom Rank: 20 (↑5)

Opponent Average KenPom Rank: 81 (-)

Strength of Schedule: 19TH

Monday was probably the biggest home win in TCU Basketball history, certainly during the Big 12 years. The 2013 win over Kansas was fun as a surprise novelty first ever conference win, the 2016 win over Texas was exciting for the blocked shot at the buzzer to seal it, but the 2018 domination of Western Virginia mattered. The Frogs have set a solid foundation with top-50 wins over SMU, Nevada, and Baylor, but Big Monday’s win will be the load-bearing wall of TCU’s March résumé. #103 Vanderbilt could come in like a wrecking ball and bring the whole house down. Memorial Gym is a tough place to steal a win, even with one of the worst-ever Commodore squads hosting. Last season’s home loss to Auburn (finished 2017 as KenPom #82) in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge made the 2017 résumé too weak to survive the late season losing streak. The 2018 Frogs cannot let that happen in Music City on Saturday.

Week’s Biggest Impacts

· #44 Missouri (↓9) vs # 12 Auburn (↑5) Losing by 18-points at home, even to a top-20 team is going to cause a major fall. Mizzou avoids the Big 12 Challenge this weekend, but will need to dominate the remaining games as there are no top-30 teams left on their schedule. Sitting this high in the rankings and with only two losses this late in the season, Auburn is a lock to hear their name called on Selection Sunday, barring a streak of disastrous losses.

· #40 Baylor (↓1) vs #31 Kansas St. (↑6) – Our friends from Waco are on the brink of falling into the Danger Zone of Tier 4 and now enter a difficult two-game road stretch against #27 Florida and #19 Oklahoma. The Bears will likely need to win one of those to keep pace with the rest of the Bubble. K-State has hit its stride into the heart of the conference schedule with wins over fellow top-50 squads and close losses over the top tier. They’ll need to keep the hits coming to overcome the 331st rated non-conference schedule in the country.

On the Move

· #41 Syracuse (↑8) – The Orange blasted #80 Boston College and travels to the truly terrible Jamie Dixon-less #210 Pitt on Saturday. As a traditional brand in the media’s favorite conference, with many showcase games ahead, Syracuse will have to leave no doubt to be left out by the Committee. We should be hoping for Syracuse losses in every game the rest of the way.

· #26 Rhode Island (↑4) – The Rams show up here again as they continue to feast on a pitiful A-10 slate and climb the rankings. It’s time for Frog fans to start tuning in when URI plays and cheer hard for the opponent – especially when they travel to TCU’s Emerald Coast Classic victim St. Bonaventure in February.

· # 45 SMU (↓13) – Yikes! This was an absolute disaster for the Ponies, losing to #151 UConn while shooting just 28% from the field. Shake Milton made only 5 shots, perhaps honoring SMU stars of yesteryear, as an homage to CJK5H. After securing the most significant win of their season last week in Wichita, SMU now falls deep into the Bubble and will need to sweep the remaining bottom-feeders of the AAC while securing a few wins over #37 Houston (twice), #6 Cincinnati, and #21 Wichita St.

· #27 Florida (↓7) – The Gators have departed the comfort of the top-20, falling deep into Tier 2 with a nice loss at home to #69 South Carolina. This is the classic “They hit shots, we missed shots” coach-speak excuse for losing a game to a low-quality opponent - The Gamecocks were twice as good from 3-point range shooting 56% to Florida’s 26%

· #33 Texas A&M (↓4) – The Aggies climbed to #4 after banking huge non-conference wins… then hit the SEC schedule and promptly lost their next five games. A couple of wins stopped the bleeding, leveling them off in the low-20s. Tuesday’s loss in Baton Rouge dropped A&M into Tier 3 with a trip to Lawrence ahead this weekend.

Bubbles Burst

· # 52 BYU (↓2) – As expected, the Cougars got trounced at #16 Saint Mary’s and dropped them just under the top-50. With two games still against #7 Gonzaga, BYU will have opportunities to make the impressions needed to secure a 3rd bid for the WCC.

New Faces

· #48 Virginia Tech – TCU wasn’t the only team to have a top-10 win and court-storming Monday night, as the Hokies were victorious over #8 UNC. They head into a massive Bubble matchup Saturday in South Bend to stay in the top-50. I expect VA Tech to have a tougher time keeping pace in the Bubble race down the stretch, so think we want the Leprechauns to take the L in that one.

Look Ahead Bubble Impact

Each of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge games will be big for strength of schedule and positioning going forward. It will be like a college football Saturday – hit the couch for Texas Tech vs. South Carolina at 11:00 and don’t get up until the Kentucky-WVU game ends.

· #25 Florida St. vs. #29 Miami – Saturday January 27

· #27 Florida vs. #40 Baylor – Saturday January 27

· #30 Notre Dame vs. #48 VA Tech – Saturday January 27