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

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Season sweep of Cyclones keeps TCU in positive position on the Bubble into the stretch run

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

Frog Status

· NET Rank: 41 (-)

· RPI: 36 (↑1)

· KenPom Rank: 42 (↑1)

· ESPN BPI: 43 (↓1)

NET result for the home win over Iowa State

In times like these, I consider the words of classic American poet Clifford Harris: “I ain’t dead. I ain’t done. I ain’t scared. I ain’t run.” A 3-game losing streak had the Frogs falling down the rankings, falling deep into the Bubble, and falling out of fan favor. Given the challenging schedule to end the season, it was understandable to look ahead and see little window to climb back into solid at-large footing. It turns out, rumors of TCU’s demise had been greatly exaggerated. Kouat Noi’s return to the court reignited the TCU offense, while the Cyclones shot just 10% (2-20!!) from 3-point range and star guard Marial Shayok scored just 4 points in 16 minutes, sitting out much of the game in foul trouble. The Frogs pick up another Q1 win for the resume and a season sweep of #15 ISU that can stand up against any Bubble contender’s top 2 wins, neutralizing the negative impact of last week’s loss in Stillwater. The unfortunate thing is that TCU has now been stuck at #41 since February 18th: despite not falling off the cliff with the bad loss to #95 OSU, there was also no climb up the rankings with this big win. This puts TCU alive again in the Bubble race, but certainly doesn’t close the requirement to continue winning to secure a spot in the Tournament field.

The Frogs look to add another season sweep to the resume this week with the trip to Morgantown for #119 West Virginia. The Mountaineers are quite clearly the worst performing team in the conference this season, taking a significant step back from 2018 with graduations and in-season departures. Despite their struggles, WVU has remained a very difficult out at home, having already taken down #20 Kansas and #40 Oklahoma while putting major scares into #16 Buffalo and #10 Texas Tech. All that to say, despite being against the lone sub-100 team in the Big 12, this game will still be a tough challenge for TCU to overcome. We remember the game from January between these two where TCU was up 20 at halftime and ended up winning by 31 in the Frogs’ most efficient offensive game of the conference schedule, but don’t be surprised if this one is closer than we would all like. After this game, the remaining schedule is filled entirely with very difficult Q1 contests, so it is critical for TCU to return to Fort Worth with a win in hand.


NET Impacts

· #48 Furman (↓3) vs #19 Wofford (↑5) – Wofford got the big win needed to potentially push into at-large lock territory, assuming two wins over sub-150 teams to close the season. A look at the Terriers’ resume and it’s not terribly impressive – yes they only have four losses and those four losses came to top-level competition, but their best non-conference win is over #81 South Carolina (whom they smashed by 20, to be fair) and overall strength of schedule is ranked 111. Being this high in NET, the Committee has no choice but to include Wofford, but if they were to lose any down the stretch, or in the SoCon Tourney to a team outside the conference’s top-4, it could become a close call. On the other side, Furman is barely holding on to a spot on the Bubble as they likely needed to win this one to have a legitimate at-large shot. The Paladins have fallen to 4th in the conference standings and would need to at least reach the finals of the SoCon tourney to have a fighting chance.


NET Positive / NET Negative

The Bubble performed admirably over the weekend, as the Top 50 only took 2 losses to teams outside the Top 50: Villanova’s loss at Xavier and San Francisco’s loss at Santa Clara. There were a few close calls (Utah St. escaped in OT at #154 Boise; #111 Georgia missed the buzzer beater in Oxford that would have sent Ole Miss tumbling) and some of the low-end fringe Bubble contenders took potentially death-blow losses (Liberty’s at-large hopes died with the loss at #199 North Florida; Arkansas picked up its 13th loss with the home defeat to #68 Texas A&M; Minnesota slid towards the bottom of the Bubble by losing at #102 Rutgers), but otherwise there was little movement around the cut line.

· #34 UCF (↑5) This game could’ve been a big help for TCU: an SMU win would improve the Frog resume while seriously damaging a close Bubble contender. Instead, the Ponies appear to have totally given up, going to Orlando and getting blown out by 47 points. The Golden Knights still have four Q1 opportunities to close the season, where a couple of wins would likely lock up a bid.

· #26 Florida St. (↓5) – Getting badly beat in the Dean Dome is no crime and the Seminoles are locked into the Tournament, as this was only their 6th loss on the season, but NET continues to be less than impressed. In the selection process of the past, FSU would be in line to earn a top-four seed – an ACC team with the #17 RPI and this accumulation of wins – but the NET has them slotted as a 7-seed. With only one Q1 opportunity left in the regular season (home vs #12 VA Tech), FSU might need a strong ACC Tournament to get to the four-seed level.


Bubbles Burst

· #51 San Francisco (↓3) – The Dons got to spend one week back on the Bubble and immediately exploded all at-large dreams with a loss at #195 Santa Clara, dropping to 4th in the conference standings. San Francisco’s only hope now is to run through the WCC tournament.


New Faces

· #50 Temple (↑4) – The Owls sneak back into the Top 50 with a Q3 home victory. Temple climbed as high as #41 back in January after handing #4 Houston its lone loss of the season, which still stands as perhaps the best win by any Bubble contender. Temple gets it final Q1 opportunity of the regular season Tuesday in Memphis where they can eliminate the #60 Tigers and move up the at-large ladder.


What to (Bubble) Watch

· #42 Ohio St. vs. #30 Iowa – Tues. Feb. 26, 6:00 PM B1G Network

· #81 South Carolina vs. #53 Alabama – Tues. Feb. 26, 6:00 PM ESPN2

· #49 Butler vs. #82 Providence – Tues. Feb. 26, 6:00 PM FS1

· #60 Memphis vs. #50 Temple – Tues. Feb. 26, 8:00 PM ESPNU

· #57 Penn St. vs. #21 Maryland – Wed. Feb. 27, 5:30 PM B1G Network

· #33 Baylor vs. #36 Texas – Wed. Feb. 27, 8:00 PM ESPN2

· #85 Northwestern vs. #59 Minnesota – Thurs. Feb. 28, 8:00 PM ESPN2

· #75 Oregon vs. #63 Arizona St. – Thurs. Feb. 28, 10:00 PM Pac12 Network