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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, February 15th

Saturday’s showdown with the Sooners will have major Bubble implications for both squads.

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

Frog Status

· NET Rank: 34 (↓2)

· RPI: 26 (↓5)

· KenPom Rank: 33 (↑2)

· ESPN BPI: 38 (-)

The NET result for the home loss to Kansas

Note: NET caps scoring margin at 1 point for overtime games

That’s a tough one to lose. The atmosphere was great, the team weathered a storm and took the lead late, only to falter in overtime. There has been plenty of discussion about how this Kansas team is down on its luck and least talented. Looking at those team stats side-by-side, it’s quite clear that played good enough to win, except in one tiny area…made shots. TCU held Kansas to 41% shooting, but only shot 38% from the floor and 62.5% on free throws. If you had showed me the TCU stats pregame and asked for a guess on the outcome, I would’ve guessed the Frogs lost by double-digits easily, so taking Kansas to OT despite that performance is something of an achievement. Knowing this season-defining win was so close is painful, but know we must turn the focus on getting the next one.

Following a heartbreaking loss is always difficult – maintaining that energy and fire we saw Monday night will be especially tough on a Saturday morning, but the Frogs (and Frog fans) must return to Schollmaier with a vengeance Saturday. The Sooners come to Fort Worth in an absolute free fall, losing five straight since the Big12/SEC showdown. The sheer strength of the Big 12 and their impressive early season performance has kept OU in the Top 50 and squarely on the Bubble, even with 10 losses already. Oklahoma will come in hungry for a win, knowing they are capable of beating TCU and knowing that their postseason life may depend on it. We’ve seen close calls for games the Frogs are expected to win at home already with Florida, OK State, Texas, and Baylor; I expect OU to be a similarly difficult team to put away. TCU will need the bounces to go in its favor to keep this Tournament train on track.


NET Impacts

· #53 UNC Greensboro (↓8) vs #46 Furman (↑10) – The battle for 2nd place in the SoCon is going to remain a tight battle, but Furman took this round and remains in position to potentially earn an at-large bid. The Paladins get top-dog Wofford at home next week for a chance to really make some noise. I am going to die on the hill that the SoCon deserves multiple bids, even if Wofford sweeps through the season and conference tourney. Would you rather see 4-loss UNC Greensboro rewarded for a great season or 14-loss Arkansas after finishing 10th in the SEC?

· #37 Lipscomb (↓7) vs #55 Liberty (↑6) – The A-Sun may also be a multi-bid league, though I do not think Liberty has as strong a case as Lipscomb or the top teams from other traditionally one-bid leagues. The loss dropped the Bisons back down into Q2 for the loss on TCU’s resume, but Lipscomb should easily cruise through the rest of the month into the A-Sun tournament.


NET Positive / NET Negative

It’s that time of year where we are treated to a swarm of “this is the softest Bubble we’ve ever seen”-type commentary from around the sport. This is generally due to national distaste for discussing or understanding quality of mid-major teams while also lumping in bad power conference teams into the Bubble discussion that have no business being in current Tournament consideration (e.g. Oregon, Georgetown, Arkansas). The Bubble doesn’t start in the 60’s of the rankings, it starts in the 30’s – there are only 36 at-large bids and #s 1-30 cannot all win their conference tournaments. At this point into the season, teams ranked 60-80 are always going to be “weak” and are not the teams really fighting for at-large bids unless they make an extreme run of wins over high-level opponents…at which point they would no longer be considered “weak.” All that said…the teams in the 30’s aren’t exactly burying their critics, as teams like Alabama, Florida, Nebraska, and frankly TCU fail to claim win streaks that would close the door on their Bubble argument.

· #39 UCF (↑7) – The Knights still have four Q1 and two Q2 games that will give opportunity to truly earn an at-large bid, but the road will not be easy, starting with #63 Memphis on Saturday.

· #32 Ole Miss (↑4) – The Rebels ran up on Auburn to take a top-line victory in their effort to move off the Bubble and into likely-lock territory. This move may not be as significant as expected for a Top-25 win, but sets up for continued growth with five must-win games over sub-60 opponents coming up…plus home tilts with #4 Tennessee and #6 Kentucky that could skyrocket the resume.

· #44 Ohio State (↓6) – Buckeye fans did not have a lovely Valentine’s evening, as they took a bad Q3 loss at home to #80 Illinois. With six Q1 games remaining, OSU will have plenty of opportunity to prove it or lose it.

· #42 Clemson (↓5) – The Tigers follow up their season-best win over Virginia Tech with a season-worst loss at #84 Miami. Yes, it was just one point on the road, but this was a game Clemson needed, with very difficult games at #16 Louisville and #25 FSU ahead – a Bubble killing losing streak could be on tap. A look ahead shows that their regular season could close with a Bubble elimination game against Syracuse.


Bubbles Burst

· #53 UNC Greensboro (↓8) – Discussed above. Another note: the top of the SoCon is better than the Pac-12 and they should send more teams to the Tourney if the Committee has any gumption.

· #51 Indiana (↓4) – Not playing this week hurt the Hoosiers even more than their 2 game home losing streak did, as teams just under the cut line secured big wins. Their game this weekend at Minnesota will be a critical Bubble show down.


New Faces

· #46 Furman (↑10) – Discussed above. Get on the SoCon bandwagon now.

· #48 Hofstra (↑3) – NET loves the Pride…a four point win over #113 College of Charleston was enough to push Hofstra back up the rankings. Simply not losing is enough to keep this team afloat.


What to (Bubble) Watch

· #57 Toledo vs. #23 Buffalo – Fri. Feb. 15, 6:00 PM ESPNU

· #58 Minnesota vs. #51 Indiana – Sat. Feb. 16, 1:00 PM ESPN2

· #40 Florida vs. #45 Alabama – Sat. Feb. 16, 1:00 PM ESPNU

· #81 Dayton vs. #43 VCU – Sat. Feb. 16, 3:00 PM NBC Sports

· #39 UCF vs. #63 Memphis – Sat. Feb. 16, 5:00 PM ESPN2

· #53 UNC Greensboro vs. #29 Wofford – Sat. Feb. 16, 6:00 PM ESPN+

· #38 Nebraska vs. #72 Northwestern – Sat. Feb. 16, 7:30 PM B1G Network

· #67 Arkansas vs. #27 Miss State – Sat. Feb. 16, 7:30 PM SEC Network

· #59 Creighton vs. #61 Seton Hall – Sun. Feb. 17, 2:00 PM FS1