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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, January 18th

Frogs finally crack the NET Top 30 with the dominant win, ahead of trip to perennial Bubble nemesis Kansas State

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Frog Status

· NET Rank: 26 (↑5)

· RPI: 12 (↓3)

· KenPom Rank: 18 (↑5)

· ESPN BPI: 26 (↑6)

Note: NET caps the maximum scoring margin at 10 points, whereas KenPom uses full game results, contributing to the disparity between those two ranking systems following this win. RPI doesn’t consider margin of victory at all, just opponent win percentage, causing this metric to fall given WVU’s sub-.500 overall record.

NET Result for the home win over West Virginia.

It already feels like a lifetime ago that TCU demolished West Virginia – there was been so much activity that it has been hard to reflect to the importance of that win. With Jaylen Fisher leaving the program, the roster is going to remain incredibly thin throughout the 2019 campaign. It was great for the Fisher-less Frogs to show this level of complete control and efficiency in disposing of the Mountaineers. We know that this team can perform at an elite level without Fisher on the floor, but the shortened bench will continue to carry a heavier burden than planned. If the Frogs can own games the way they did Tuesday night, it will go a long way to eliminating any lingering question regarding the roster that the Committee may hold come Selection Sunday.

The games vs. K-State will always be extremely important for the Bubble race, as these two programs will likely have similar résumés come March and it could be the two Frog-Wildcat showdowns that tip the scales. K-State has leapt back up the rankings, as Dean Wade’s re-entry to the lineup has returned the Wildcats to prominence with back-to-back monster road upset victories. The game in Manhattan is a great chance for TCU to play Bubble Booster to its own résumé and Bubble Buster to that of a close Bubble competitor.


NET Impacts

· #27 Oklahoma (↓12) vs #37 Kansas St. (↑12) – The Wildcats are absolutely rolling right now – since a 20 point loss to the Longhorns to kick of conference play, KSU has three conference wins and a tight loss in Lubbock. The Sooners have been a bit of a swoon since the blazing non-conference start and now need a win in Austin to avoid dropping to ninth place in the Big XII standings.

· #33 Florida St. (↓7) vs #53 Pitt (↑12) – The unfortunate Seminoles were a buzzer beater away from knocking off #2 Duke and were clearly still reeling from that loss, picking up a third conference loss and falling deep into Bubble danger zone, while allowing Pitt to climb into an overachieving fringe Bubble role.


NET Positive / NET Negative

· #16 Iowa St. (↑12) – I suggested it could get worse before it got better for our friends from Ames….I was spectacularly wrong. Indeed, it got much better for the Cyclones as they stole a huge victory in Lubbock to fly back up the NET rankings.

· #39 Lipscomb (↑8) – Perhaps the Frogs’ home loss to the Bisons wasn’t as tragic as we all thought. Lipscomb has been crushing all in its path so far in A-Sun play, but given the level of competition, any loss (other than to #44 Liberty) could be considered a Bubble elimination. It’s still most likely that the A-Sun is a one-bid league, but the game between the Bisons and the Flames in a couple weeks will be huge for whichever team doesn’t win the conference tournament. Here’s hoping Lipscomb can climb into the top 30 and qualify as a Quadrant 1 loss.

· #31 NC State (↓15) – The Wolfpack took a devastating tumble in Winston-Salem, losing to previously #192 Wake Forest. NCST better right the ship at #71 Notre Dame, as they do not have a game against a team ranked outside the Top 55 until hosting #141 Boston College at the end of February.

· #49 Seton Hall (↓10) – The Pirates have now lost to two of the three worst teams in the Big East to fall almost off the Bubble, but get the revenge opportunity Saturday hosting #112 DePaul.


Bubbles Burst

· #63 Minnesota (↓17) – The Golden Gophers popped their Bubble in Champaign like they don’t want to play a Tournament game… Minnesota joins Syracuse and K-State as teams that yo-yo on and off the Bubble. The swings for Minnesota have been especially huge – following their 18-point home win last weekend, they promptly lost by 27 at #125 Illinois. Hoo partner, that’s a heart stopper. You Betcha.


New Faces

· #50 Arizona (↑1) – The bottom of the Bubble is so soft that the Wildcats could lose at home to #74 Oregon and still move up…not entirely sure how the NET came to this conclusion. Sean Miller has already gone through three shirts just thinking about how he’ll hold on to a Bubble position


What to (Bubble) Watch

· #36 Ohio State vs. #21 Maryland – Friday January 18, 5:30 PM, FS1

· #52 Pitt vs. #51 Syracuse – Saturday January 19, 1:00 PM, ACC Network

· #48 Butler vs. #34 St. John’s – Saturday January 19, 3:30 PM, Fox

· #45 Texas vs. #27 Oklahoma – Saturday January 19, 7:00 PM, Longhorn Network