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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, January 29th

Horned Frogs & Big 12 Crash to Earth

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NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Frog Status

Current KenPom Rank: 26 (↓6)

Opponent Average KenPom Rank: 84 (↓3)

Strength of Schedule: 27th (↓8)

Ugh. Well our Frogs follow the biggest win of the season with the worst loss as another in a long line of Memorial Magic victims. Horned Frog Nation is in despair and ready to give up hope for a meaningful March. Thankfully, you have a numbers-based analysis to provide some objective light in these dark times. For the week starting 1/22, TCU is down just one spot, with a bad loss cancelling out a great win. Sitting at #26 is extremely positive for TCU - since 2002 only 5 teams have ever missed the tournament when finishing the season as KenPom #26 or better. Last season at this point, we were #43 following the loss to Auburn. The biggest impact of this loss is that it erases TCU’s cushion within the Bubble – this cannot become a losing streak Tuesday versus #68 in Stillwater, as the schedule turns frightening with 4 games remaining against the top 15.

The Big 12/SEC Challenge was mostly a failure for the Big 12 this season, winning just four games and squandering an opportunity to boost the collective strength of schedule come seeding and selection time. The Bubble was especially strong over the weekend, as only 11 other teams in the top 50 lost, only 3 of which were to sub-50 teams, causing an even greater impact from TCU’s sub-100 loss.

Weekend’s Biggest Impacts

· #34 Notre Dame (↓4) vs # 39 Virginia Tech (↑9) The Hokies locked in a much needed road conference victory to jump into Tier 3 and will need to keep the hits coming, with 7 of its final 10 games are against other top-40 teams. The Irish will have opportunity to bounce back in a major way (or tumble further into the abyss) at #4 Duke – as slimy as it may feel, Frog fans should be looking for a big Blue Devil victory Monday.

· #14 West Virginia (↓4) vs #25 Kentucky (↑7) – The crown jewel of the Big 12/SEC Challenge was being dominated by the Mountaineers most of the night, but their offense hit a cold patch and the Wildcats took advantage, erasing a 17-point deficit. WVU is still safely in the top-20 and is likely to end the losing streak Wednesday at #116 Iowa State. Kentucky has 8 remaining games against top-50 teams and could climb back into the safety of the top-20 with a strong finish.

On the Move

· #21 Florida (↑6) – Florida put up gaudy numbers against Baylor, winning by 21 points and putting itself just outside the top 20. The Gators’ position is tenuous however, as their next six games are against teams outside the top-50, so they’ll need to continue winning big to avoid a drop along the way.

· #40 New Mexico St (↑6) – With another 20+ point victory, these Aggies have jumped into Tier 3. However, with the 121st ranked strength of schedule and only two remaining games against the top-200 (#96 Utah Valley & #103 Grand Canyon), NMSU is low risk as a bid-thief, likely needing to win the WAC tournament to go dancing in March.

· # 33 Rhode Island (↓7) – URI shows up in this section for the 3rd consecutive time, though now with the arrow pointing downward. Even in victory, the last-second escape against #171 Duquesne was enough to send the Rams down a tier.

· #49 Mizzou (↓5) – Now on the brink of dropping off the Bubble following a 12-point loss at #71 Mississippi State, the Tigers will travel to Tuscaloosa Wednesday for a showdown against Collin Sexton and #56 Alabama in what could be a Bubble elimination game.

Bubbles Burst

· # 51 Baylor (↓11) – It is always wonderful to see the Bears lose, but the 21-point trouncing at the hands of Florida dropped one of TCU’s signature wins off the Bubble, with the potential to fall even further as they now travel to face #22 OU on Tuesday.

New Faces

· #45 MTSU – A 31-point win, even over #240 UTEP provides a big boost in the rankings. A win Thursday over #67 Old Dominion will have the Blue Raiders on a collision course with #46 WKU to close the season for C-USA supremacy. Those 2 squads will need to keep piling up huge numbers over the rest of their C-USA competition to sneak multiple teams from the conference into the Big Dance.

Look Ahead Bubble Impact

· #36 Texas A&M vs. #47 Arkansas – Tues. January 30

· #30 Butler vs. #38 Marquette – Wed. January 31

· #49 Mizzou vs. #56 Alabama – Wed. January 31