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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, February 16th

As the Bubble begins to tighten, the Frogs enter ‘must-win’ portion of the schedule

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Frog Status

Current KenPom Rank: 25 (↓3)

Opponent Average KenPom Rank: 84 (-)

Strength of Schedule: 14th (↑9)

Monday’s game was a major fork in TCU’s Bubble road – a win would’ve put the Frogs as a near-lock looking for a winning streak for seeding positioning; the loss will keep TCU on the Bubble through the end of the season, making the remaining games near-must-wins. You already know what we need to do to have a relaxing Selection Sunday: just win, baby. Win out and Frogs are locked in; lose out and we’re out; anything in-between will have us Bubble Watching and studying Bracketology until the bracket is revealed.

TCU won’t have an opportunity to break the glass ceiling and secure a true résumé boost until the season finale in Lubbock, so the upcoming match-ups are about padding the floor and swatting away any excuse the Committee might have to send TCU back to the NIT. That is not to say any of these games will be easy, far from it, the Frogs will be in for a battle every step of the way. The sprint to the finish starts with #72 Cowboys coming to Cowtown on Saturday. OK State has already booked road wins at WVU and Kansas, so this is a proven squad capable of being the fly in our Bubble ointment. We need The Scholly packed and rocking, as every remaining game can be considered “The Most Important Game in TCU Basketball History”

Week’s Biggest Impact

· #35 Arizona St. (↓3) vs #21 Arizona (↑3) The Committee has not only decided that Arizona is a lock for the Tournament, but sits currently as a top 4 seed and Thursday’s win put them near that spot in KenPom. With their brand name and lottery-pick filled roster, the Wildcats were not really at risk of falling out of the Committee’s favor even with a loss here, or maybe even if they lose out, but the Bubble impact of this game was for the Sun Devil loss. ASU gets an especially easy close to their season, with an opponent average KenPom rank of #126 and zero games against the top-70. If ASU loses any of those match-ups, they’ll be dangerously close to the wrong side of the Bubble.

On the Move

· #28 Penn State (↑13) – February wins don’t get much bigger than PSU’s 23-point dismantling of #16 Ohio State. The Nittany Lions have now won four straight after a hard-fought loss at #6 Michigan State, moving from outside the Bubble to start the month to a near-lock two weeks later. They close the B1G season with three consecutive top-55 games; a single win likely locks Penn State into the Tournament.

· #23 Houston (↑6) – Another major upset that pushes another Bubble contender into near-lock territory. The Cougars close with an extremely easy schedule, averaging KenPom rank of #155, so they’ll most likely be strolling into a top-7 seed barring a complete collapse.

· #26 Butler (↓6) – Losing at home to the #86 Hoyas has put Butler’s near-lock status on edge. The Bulldogs will be favored in every game the rest of the way, but each one could prove tricky, with the worst rated team being #71 St. John’s. Already at 10 losses, dropping a couple more could give Butler an uncomfortable Selection Sunday.

· #32 Florida (↓6) – After burying South Carolina last weekend, the Gators had a similar opportunity to end #79 Georgia’s hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament. Instead Florida allowed an 11-point lead to evaporate over the final 10 minutes, eventually falling in overtime. The bad losses have piled up for Florida, but they’ll have big-win opportunities to lock in a Big Dance ticket.

Bubbles Burst

· #51 Marquette (↓1) – The Golden Eagles suffered by not playing during a week when the bottom of the Bubble experienced much success. With a win, or even a strong showing Saturday at #22 Creighton, they’ll be back in the mix.

New Faces

· #46 Kansas State (↑10) Guess who’s back? You’re back! Congrats Wildcat fans, you’ve clawed your way into the top 50 yet again. Even with a home game vs. #91 Iowa State this weekend, K-State’s position within the Bubble is tenuous – their current KenPom rating (13.94) is closer to falling back into 60th place (12.77) than it is to climbing just two spot to 44th place (15.16)

What to (Bubble) Watch

· #44 Texas at #31 Oklahoma – Sat. Feb. 17; 11:00 AM CT; ESPN

· #48 Syracuse at #38 Miami – Sat. Feb. 17; 11:00 AM CT; CBS

· #41 Alabama at #34 Kentucky – Sat. Feb. 17; 1:00 PM CT; CBS

· #20 Texas A&M vs. #43 Arkansas – Sat. Feb. 17; 3:00 PM CT; ESPN