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

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Frogs black out Baylor and look ahead for critical win 21 on Senior Night

Melissa Triebwasser

Frog Status

Current KenPom Rank: 21 (↑1)

Strength of Schedule: 25 (↓3)

Current RPI Rank: 19 (↑1)

Current ESPN BPI Rank: 19 (↓1)

How sweep it is! Putting up another victory over Baylor has set the Frogs up in the best position at this point in the season in at least two decades. I noted after the loss at WVU that every game to follow would be the most important in TCU Basketball history and the Frogs have gone out and secured the most important win in each of those games. This one featured perhaps my single favorite moment as a TCU Basketball fan – With a chance to cut the game to 6-points with 2-mintues to play, Baylor’s 6’ 8” Senior forward TJ Maston went up for a dunk but was denied at the rim by TCU guard Desmond Bane. Just as the Great White Hit secured a win over Mike Leach’s Texas Tech and the Tank Swat secured the Rose Bowl win, the Bane Block could go down in TCU lore as potentially securing a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

On that note, I have seen National and Local media outlets join much of the Frog fandom in claiming that the TCU Tournament bid has now officially been locked up and the only thing we’ll be looking to find out on Selection Sunday is where the Committee will send us. I do not want to downplay the importance of Saturday’s win, and TCU’s résumé is extremely strong under any metric, but with the first conference tournaments just getting started this week there is so much to still play out and so much to play for. Baylor was just a few votes outside the AP Top-25 at this point last week, but after dropping its next two games, the Bears are back on the dangerous side of the Bubble. Several teams booked major wins this week that their fan bases consider to be bid-locking: e.g. Arkansas, Louisville, NC State, Florida, Creighton, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. However, historically an average of 6.5 teams in the top-50 will be left off the bracket, so the official Bubble Watch position is that TCU needs at least another win to climb into the KenPom top-20 and feel fully safe. Nothing can be left up to the decision of any Committee. Let’s show up loud and proud at Schollmaier Tuesday night and go ahead and get that win over #49 K-State on Senior Night.

Weekend’s Biggest Impacts

· #35 Florida St. (↓9) vs #40 NC State (↑9) – Wolfpack are officially back, putting up a 20 point victory for their home crowd. NC State now gets a gimme game at #119 Georgia Tech before what could be the Bubble game of the year in the season finale against #33 Louisville – win both and the Pack will be dancing again...as long as the NCAA doesn’t bring swift retribution for the “loans” to Dennis Smith Jr. last season. FSU is probably safe despite this lopsided loss, but do travel to #18 Clemson on Wednesday, where a loss could put the Seminoles back on the Bubble.

· #34 VA Tech (↓6) vs #33 Louisville (↑5) –The Hokies had the chance to fully lock in their bid and put Louisville at the bottom of the Bubble. Instead the Cardinals went into Blacksburg and stole a win to head into the season’s final week needing just one win to fly into near-lock status, albeit those games come against #1 UVA and #40 NC State. VA Tech will now need to get an upset win against #3 Duke or at #41 Miami to secure a spot in the Dance.

On the Move

· #44 MTSU (↑6) – Murfreesboro stand up! The Blue Raiders have jumped into the AP Rankings and took another leap up KenPom with the 25-point victory on Saturday. MTSU will be an interesting Bubble case, should they lose during the C-USA Tournament. To keep their at-large case viable, they must win out to close the regular season, including the big game Thursday vs. #55 Western Kentucky in a de facto regular season championship.

· #28 Creighton (↑6) – Just as it appeared the Bluejays would fall off the map if they took a likely loss to #2 Villanova, they instead get the huge overtime upset to climb into near-lock territory. If Creighton can avoid a Bubble blemish Tuesday against #99 DePaul they will lock up their bid with a chance to fully eliminate #53 Marquette on Saturday.

· #46 Maryland (↓11) – Closing the regular season with a 24-point home loss is a bad way to go out, falling to the 8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. A minimum of two wins are required for the Terps to get back in the Bubble race, though slow and steady may win this race yet as that would mean the turtles took down #5 Michigan State in the conference quarterfinals.

· #45 Missouri (↓6) – Despite picking up their third consecutive loss, the Tigers are still considered a solid bet to make the Tournament, according to Bracketologists. Now that NBA-Lottery talent Michael Porter Jr. has been cleared to return (at least medically), the Committee will not want to keep a star out of the Tournament if it can help it. However, he is having enough fun on the bench that I’m not sure he cares to actually play in any college games. Again this week, Frog fans are looking for Vanderbilt to put a dent in another contender’s résumé, while boosting the TCU numbers.

Bubbles Burst

· #53 Marquette (↓6) – Getting outmatched by Big East cellar-dweller DePaul and picking up a 12th loss has likely eliminated the Golden Eagles. They’ll need to win out and have a deep run through the conference tournament, starting with a trip to DC vs. #96 Georgetown. Bubble Watchers should be rooting for the Hoyas on Monday night.

New Faces

· #42 USC – The Trojans’ 16-point road win over #63 Utah was a huge mover for the Bubble, putting the Utes at the very bottom of Bubble conversations and pushing USC up into 2nd place in the PAC 12, just a half-game behind controversy-riddled Arizona. USC gets the week off ahead of the season finale against #58 UCLA for a chance to push towards locking in a bid while knocking out their crosstown rivals.

What to (Bubble) Watch

· #26 Florida at #47 Alabama – Tue. Feb. 27; 6:00 PM CT; ESPN

· #39 Oklahoma at #36 Baylor – Tue. Feb. 27; 8:00 PM CT; ESPN2

· #57 Davidson at #67 St. Bonaventure – Tue. Feb. 27; 8:00 PM CT; CBS Sports Net

· #52 Boise St. at #62 San Diego St. – Tue. Feb. 27; 10:00 PM CT; CBS Sports Net

· #55 WKU at #44 MTSU – Thur. Mar. 1; 7:00 PM CT; CBS Sports Net