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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, January 25th

After downing the ‘Horns, Frogs look to chomp up opponent in key SEC/Big XII showdown

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

Note: as of January 25, 11:00 PM, NCAA had not updated it’s NET rankings to include game results of Thursday 1/24. This posts references those games, but the NET data does not reflect those outcomes.

Frog Status

· NET Rank: 28 (↑3)

· RPI: 13 (↑3)

· KenPom Rank: 22 (-)

· ESPN BPI: 32 (↑1)

NET impact for the home win over Texas

Just seeing those efficiency numbers makes it seem like this was a sloppy mess of a game. The positive: look at that Defensive Efficiency number! That is by far the best number the Frogs have put up in conference play, and on a night where the 3-ball wasn’t falling (TCU shot just 25%), the defensive effort was the key to victory. Most notably, Kevin Samuel played 32 minutes and committed 0 (yes, zero!) fouls and JD Miller booked 36 minutes with only 1 foul while tasked with stopping an apparent NBA Lottery pick. While not the most impressive offensive effort, the Frogs were still able to pull out a hard-fought win ahead of SEC/Big XII Showdown weekend.

The Frogs got matched up with the Gators this year and this is a big one for the Bubble – it is entirely possible that these two teams will be fighting for the same real estate on the Bubble, for seeding, and in the perception of the Committee. Right now, the Gators sit as a consensus “First Four Out” and we’d certainly like to keep them on the outside looking in. Florida is a weird case right now and sit as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the move to NET as the ruling metric – currently #78 in RPI, but #37 in NET and #26 in KenPom. This mostly is due to the fact that Florida has only 11 wins and the losses coming mostly against top-level competition (6 Quadrant 1 losses), but outside of a 34 point drubbing of #48 Butler, the wins aren’t especially impressive. They could really use the Q1 win that defeating TCU would represent. Florida plays one of the slowest tempos in all of college basketball, with a top-10 defensive efficiency, so every possession will be critical and TCU must clean up the turnovers to avoid falling victim to that slow pace.

NET Impacts

· #32 Ole Miss (↓7) vs #41 Alabama (↑9) – The Tide rolled easily over AP #20 Ole Miss to remain on the right side of the Bubble. Both teams get Q1 opportunities in their Big XII showdowns: the Rebels host AP #24 Iowa State and Bama travels to Waco for surging NET #51 Baylor.

· #48 Butler (↓5) vs #24 Villanova (↑4) – The Bulldogs have fallen into the deep Big East 2nd tier, into a 5-way tie for 3rd place, while Nova has emerged from a slow non-con start to climb back atop the conference, having not yet lost in Big East matchups. At least one other team from the conference will earn an at-large spot and Butler will have to avoid a dangerous trip to Omaha, where #XX Creighton could cause damage to the Butler résumé and force them to earn a spot back on the Bubble.

NET Positive / NET Negative

· #34 Florida St. (↑6) – The Seminoles picked up a much needed win to end their losing streak and send fellow ACC contender Clemson further down the Bubble pecking order.

· #23 Buffalo (↓13) – The Bulls suffered a bad loss, falling to #118 Northern Illinois and out of their previously extremely comfortable top 10 spot. Buffalo still will likely be dancing in March and would need to lose a few more bad ones before dropping off the Bubble, so look for the MAC to be a potential bid thief, should the Bulls not prevail in the conference tourney.

Bubbles Burst

Both of the below games were on Thursday and were not captured in the latest publish NET figures, but with bad losses to fringe Bubble teams in mid-major conferences, it’s fair to assume a significant tumble

· #47 Saint Mary’s (↓??) – The Gaels’ time on the Bubble was short lived, as the loss to #111 BYU eliminates any realistic hope for an at-large bid and dropping the WCC to a two-bid league at best. Saint Mary’s will now look to play spoiler for Gonzaga and San Francisco and hope for a Cinderella run through the WCC Tournament to get them to the Big Dance.

· #44 Murray St. (↓??) Where is Ja?!?! This will be chalked up as a direct result of superstar Ja Morant going down with an ankle injury and playing hurt, but Belmont is traditionally a good team that has been known to put a scare into top teams in March. That said, losing at home by 13 at home to a sub-80 squad will send your NET ranking tumbling. The Racers are still a likely Tournament team, but look out for the OVC Tournament to steal a bid if Murray State can’t sweep through it.

New Faces

· #49 Liberty (↑3) – The Flames put up a 25-point shellacking on #187 North Florida to make enough NET noise to creep back into the top 50. They get a quick and easy road trip to # 296 Jacksonville before their A-Sun headline matchup with Lipscomb next week.

· #51 Baylor (↑2) – Look at these two peas in a pod. The Bears are rolling in conference play with 2 road wins and wins over NET #16 ISU and #17 Texas Tech. Baylor has fully entered the Bubble discussion and can get another big boost with #41 Alabama coming to town.

What to (Bubble) Watch

It will be an especially busy weekend on the Bubble and with no football to distract attention, College Hoops will take center stage. This is SEC/Big XII Challenge week, where every game will have a general impact on the Bubble and a specific impact to the résumés of the Frogs and every team in these conferences. As the final non-conference showcase, it will be the last best chance to increase schedule strength for the conference. The matchups are not as juicy as years past (this year’s WVU team travelling to Knoxville to face the AP #1 Vols…Yikes), but KU-UK is always a headliner and these will all have a cascading effect on the Bubble race.

· #51 Baylor vs. #41 Alabama – Saturday January 26, 11:00 AM ESPNU

· #21 Nebraska vs. #46 Ohio State – Saturday January 26, 11:00 AM FS1

· #59 Clemson vs. #27 NC State – Saturday January 26, 1:00 PM ACC Network

· #31 Miss St. vs. #25 Auburn – Saturday January 26, 7:30 PM SEC Network

· #62 Temple vs. #33 Cincinnati – Sunday January 27, 11:00 AM CBS Sports Net

· #24 Villanova vs. #56 Seton Hall – Sunday January 27, 1:30 PM Fox

· #66 Memphis vs. #35 UCF – Sunday January 27, 3:00 PM CBS Sports Net