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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, January 28th

Defeating SEC team has little effect on the rankings. Frogs quickly shift focus to the massive Monday match up in Lubbock

TCU Basketball vs Florida Gators (1.25.19)
Melissa Triebwasser

Frog Status

· NET Rank: 28 (-)

· RPI: 18 (↓5)

· KenPom Rank: 24 (↓2)

· ESPN BPI: 34 (↓2)

The NET result from the home win over Florida

That game was more exciting than it had any right to be, as properly reflected in the relative drop in each of the ranking metrics. It looked like TCU would run away with the game early, as the Frog defense absolutely dominated the first half en route to the best defensive performance of the year, topping last week’s effort vs. Texas by .05 points per possession. The vaunted Florida defense showed up too though, creating 17 turnovers and forcing TCU into its least efficient offensive game of 2019. Even if this game didn’t make a major impact on the current overall NET rankings, the Frogs picked up a critical Q2 win and prevented a Bubble contender from earning a Q1 victory. There has been chatter that the SEC/Big XII challenge is meaningless in the scheme of the season, as it is a one-off non-con game in the heart of the critical conference schedule and the entire SEC can’t participate. True, but it is still great to get the win and important for the conference to boost its overall résumé strength. To note, on average, the Big XII is the best rated conference in NET, with an average team ranking of 39. B1G is 2nd at 45 and the SEC is outside the Top 50, at 53 coming out of the weekend.

A quick side note on the TCU résumé – Fresno State fell out of the top 75 with the loss at Colorado St, turning the home victory over the Bulldogs into a Q3 win. As it stands, TCU’s entire remaining schedule will be Q2 or better, with 9 games currently slotted as Q1. The Frogs have already built a very strong at-large case and any win going forward will be of top quality, but there are no layups in there.

The challenge jumps a level tonight, as TCU now goes from trying to score on KenPom’s #8 defense to its #1 in Lubbock. Jamie Dixon and staff have definitely gotten this squad prepared to take on these top flight defenses, and TCU will need a full effort in all aspects to slay the Red Raiders on the road. Jarrett Culver is a certified top-bill star for Texas Tech and will be incredibly difficult to handle, and if he gets his 3-pointers dropping early, he could be in for a huge night. If he is bottled up, there is talent outside of Culver, but it’s been inconsistent. Moretti had the big day against Arkansas to prevent the massive home upset, it was Mooney putting on a show in Austin, and Fort Worth’s own Norense Odiase can be a handful on the glass. A win in Lubbock would be the foundational piece on which all Bubble and seed-line arguments would begin, a major opportunity for TCU tonight.

NET Impacts

· #32 Alabama (↓3) vs #41 Baylor (↑9) – Well folks, looks like this Baylor thing is real. The Bears sit just a half game back from the Kansans atop the current Big XII standings and get a Q1 opportunity in Norman tonight. We could be looking at an 8-bid Big XII when Selection Sunday comes around. Bama, meanwhile, has seen high highs (win vs UK, 3-point loss at Tennessee), but continue to accumulate losses. The schedule doesn’t get any easier with tough Bubble battles this week against #27 Miss State and #26 Auburn, the Tide could be a candidate to take a dive off of the Bubble.

· #25 Nebraska (↓4) vs #37 Ohio St. (↑9) – The ‘Huskers got sent to Long Term Parking at Rutgers last week and continued to tumble down the rankings with a 10-point home loss over the weekend. This is now 3 losses in a row since the huge win at Assembly Hall and #13 Wisconsin coming to Lincoln this week. This was a critical win for OSU, sitting in the middle of the B1G pack, but climbing into the NET Top 40. Had the Buckeyes lost this game, it likely that NET’s first ever #1 team would’ve fallen out of the Top 50

NET Positive / NET Negative

It was a tough weekend for the lower end of the Bubble, with 12 losses for teams ranked 30-50. Though none fell too drastically in the rankings, the Bubble is already tightening as January comes to a close.

· #23 Cincinnati (↑10) – A small road win is enough evidence NET needs to shoot Cinci up into the Top 25 and out of Bubble danger. The Bearcats get the week off to prepare for SMU to come to town; let’s look for the Ponies to pull a grand upset to boost the TCU résumé and knock Cinci down a seed line or two.

· #32 Washington (↑8) – Winning road games, even against middle-tier Pac-12 teams will keep the Huskies above the fold and likely easily rolling into March. They now get the red-hot Trojans riding a 3-game winning streak with superstar recruit Kevin Porter Jr. rounding into shape following an injury and returning to his hometown Seattle. This presents another opportunity for a former Frog opponent to boost the TCU profile and further punish another Bubble contender.

· #49 Saint John’s (↓10) – Hoya Saxa indeed! Patrick Ewing marched back into old stomping ground Madison Square Garden as #88 Georgetown brought the hammer down on the Red Storm. Losing badly at home to lowly opponents is a NET cardinal sin and I’m surprised St. John’s remained in the Top 50, if just barely. They now have a very difficult trip to Omaha where #58 Creighton will look to steal St. John’s spot on the Bubble.

· #30 Iowa (↓8) – The Hawkeyes had been on a nice run, rolling up 6 conference wins before getting pummeled by #6 MSU at home last week and allowing #51 Minnesota to reenter the Bubble conversation on Sunday. They now get the week off to prepare for another massive home game, with #4 Michigan coming to town Friday.

Bubbles Burst

Despite all the carnage around the Bubble line, no one below the top-50 could capitalize on this opportunity, but lurking contenders #51 Minnesota, #54 Memphis, and #58 Creighton made big jumps and will have a chance to move into the right side of the Bubble with another big win this week.

· #55 Saint Mary’s (↓8) – The Gaels actually dropped out last week, and have now lost back to back sub-100 road games. It’s likely this Bubble is permanently popped and they’ll have to sweep through the WCC Tourney to go dancing.

New Faces

· #45 Hofstra (↑7) – The NET calculation just eats this stuff up - two dominating road wins in a row, even over #244 JMU and #279, give the Pride enough juice to fly back into the Top 50…not sure raw net efficiency should be weighted as heavily as it is in our new metric overlord, but still am not concerned with Hofstra becoming a bid thief

What to (Bubble) Watch

· #42 Baylor vs. #24 Oklahoma – Monday January 28, 8:00 PM ESPNU

· #22 Maryland vs. #56 Northwestern – Tuesday January 29, 6:00 PM FS1

· #46 Liberty vs. #39 Lipscomb – Tuesday January 29, 6:00 PM ESPN+

· #44 Alabama vs. #27 Miss State – Tuesday January 29, 7:30 PM SEC Network

· #59 Clemson vs. #63 Pitt – Tuesday January 29, 8:00 PM ESPNU

· #36 Florida vs. #35 Ole Miss – Wednesday January 30, 5:30 PM SEC Network

· #58 Creighton vs. #49 St. John’s – Wednesday January 30, 7:30 PM FS1