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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, March 1st

As the calendar turns to March, the Frogs need some answers and some help to keep Tournament hopes alive

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Frog Status

  • NET Rank: 43 (↓2)
  • RPI: 41(↓5)
  • KenPom Rank: 45 (↓3)
  • ESPN BPI: 43 (-)
NET result for the loss at West Virginia

Note: NET scoring margin is capped at 1 point in overtime games

Here we go again. Another bad loss on the road ahead of a seemingly impossible home game. It is again very easy to look ahead and see the path that ends with TCU being left out on Selection Sunday. I will again remind you that this was simply a Q2 loss on the road in triple overtime…and you will again roll your eyes. I understand 100%. It’s getting down to the time where the excuses run dry and ultimately the number in the win column will mean more than any metric or ranking. A sub-100 loss to close February is not sending the right message to the Selection Committee and could be pointed to as a reason for exclusion when compared to other Bubble contenders. I wouldn’t be surprised to see TCU fall into the “Last Four Byes/Last Four In” territory on national bracket projections. The Frogs still have work to do, but will have the opportunity to impress with three Top-40 games to close the regular season.

We get our March started with the NET’s top ranked Big 12 team. The #10 Red Raiders are coming off their own overtime scare, as they needed extra time to knock off Oklahoma State. In Lubbock a month ago, Texas Tech put together a complete beatdown of the Frogs, as the TCU defense could not get any defensive stops and simply couldn’t score enough to keep pace. TCU actually put up over a point per possession (5th best offensive performance of 2019) in the first meeting, which may be due in part to the game being out of reach early, but could indicate a path to a TCU victory this weekend. Tech will bring the nation’s #1 rated defense into the Schollmaier on Saturday, but if the Frogs can still earn more than one point per possession, increase possessions with improved rebounding and forced turnovers, and hold the Red Raider offense at or below their season averages from the field and from 3-point range and you can start to visualize a victory being possible. That is a lot of ifs, but I’m expecting a better game than the one we saw last month in Lubbock or the one we just witnessed in Morgantown. These are the opportunities Furman and Belmont and VCU don’t get – the chance to earn a Top 10 win and eliminate all doubt about whether they deserve a seat at the big kid table. TCU can put some significant distance ahead of the mid-major Bubble competition with a win Saturday.


NET Impact

· #56 Temple (↓6) vs #53 Memphis (↑7) – The American will only get four teams, at most, in the Tournament and these are the 4th and 5th teams in the conference. Temple had a chance to eliminate the Tigers, instead Memphis leapt ahead in NET and put a dent in the Owls’ resume. Memphis does already have 11 losses, but with a top-level showcase Saturday at #22 Cinci and an AAC tournament that would feature many Q2 and Q1 opportunities, I wouldn’t call the Tigers dead yet. Temple is now in a similarly difficult spot on the Bubble, needing to win out, including over #30 UCF next week and probably still need a couple wins in the AAC Tournament to put together a strong case.


NET Positive / NET Negative

Tuesday had the potential to be the worst possible Bubble day for TCU – as the Morgantown nightmare was ending, it was halftime of the late games across the country and Bubble teams were making moves. #40 Ohio State had already secured a 20 point win over AP #22 Iowa and #48 Alabama earned a Q2 road win at South Carolina, while fringe contenders (#63 Liberty, #58 Indiana, #66 Dayton, #62 Toledo) jumped back into the race with big wins. Thankfully, UNC came back to defeat #44 Syracuse, Kentucky overcame an 11 point halftime deficit to knock off #74 Arkansas. All told, the week was especially volatile, with some huge swings in both directions.

· #45 Belmont (↑7) – The Bruins climb into the Top 50 for the first time this season thanks to a 45-point road win over #315 UT Martin. It’s hard to imagine Belmont earns an at-large bid (with the #231 strength of schedule and 3 Q3 losses), so next week’s OVC Tournament and the likely eventual matchup with Ja Morant’s #52 Murray State will be must see TV.

· #48 Alabama (↑5) – The Tide are one of TCU’s closest Bubble competitors – similar resumes and similar remaining schedules. Frog fans are rooting for a big win for #13 LSU in Tuscaloosa this weekend to knock Bama back under the Top 50 and avoid another big shiny win on their resume.

· #50 Penn State (↑7) – This one is a bit of a mystery, as it is very unlikely the Nittany Lions make the NCAA Tournament -PSU has 16 losses on the season- but continue to get surprise wins. With the nation’s 3rd most difficult schedule, basically any win is a surprise. Given the level of wins they’ve earned, Penn State could be a dark horse to win some games in the B1G Tournament and even have a Cinderella run to win the conference championship.

· #54 Butler (↓5) – The Bulldogs are unable to climb out of the bottom tier of a mediocre Big East, taking a Q3 loss to #78 Providence. Butler will probably need to make noise in the conference tournament to have a realistic chance of earning an at-large bid.

· #59 St. John’s (↓12) – The Red Storm lost a sub-70 home game for the fourth time this season, but with six Q1 wins St. John’s will actually have a solid argument to present to the Committee. They have the revenge opportunity next week at #71 Xavier, which should be a Bubble elimination game

· #60 San Francisco (↓9) – The Dons’ Tournament dreams now officially hang 100% with the WCC Tournament after falling at home to #105 San Diego


What to (Bubble) Watch

The Horned Frogs are deep into the danger zone now, where bid-thieves lurk around every corner and the Committee can come up with any reason to exclude TCU. Since 2002, 35% of teams ranked 41 to 50 in KenPom at the end of the season were left out of the Big Dance and an average of 6.53 teams in the Top 50 are rejected by the Committee per season. The NET is a knockoff approximation of KenPom, but given its allegedly prominent role in the selection process, we can reasonably expect similar results in 2019. It is not good enough to just remain in the Top 50, and winning games will heal all wounds, but witnessing the downfall of our enemies can be just as glorious. THIS IS MARCH, so the What to Watch segment is going to detail the competition for an at-large bid and the games where the outcome will most directly impact TCU’s standing in the Bubble race:

Head to head:

One team will approach elimination while the other survives and adds a key win to resume:

  • #74 Arkansas vs. #38 Ole Miss – Sat. Mar. 2, Noon SEC Network
  • #72 Georgetown vs. #64 Seton Hall – Sat. Mar. 2, 5:30 PM CBS Sports

Top Teams vs. the Bubble:

We do not want other Bubble contenders to earn a signature win that can be held up as evidence of strength and cause for inclusion in the Tournament field. All of the below would qualify as Q1 wins for a Bubble foe, potentially boosting their resume ahead of TCU:

  • #6 Michigan St @ #58 Indiana– Sat. Mar. 2, 11:00 AM Fox
  • #13 LSU @ #48 Alabama – Sat. Mar. 2, 11:00 AM ESPN
  • #24 Florida St. vs. #31 NC State – Sat. Mar. 2, 11:00 AM ESPN2
  • #16 Wisconsin vs. #50 Penn State – Sat. Mar. 2, Noon Big Ten Network
  • #27 Villanova vs. #54 Butler – Sat. Mar. 2, 1:00 PM Fox
  • #12 Purdue vs. #40 Ohio State – Sat. Mar. 2, 1:00 PM ESPN
  • #14 Iowa State @ #36 Texas – Sat. Mar. 2, 1:00 PM ESPN2
  • #4 Houston vs. #30 UCF – Sat. Mar. 2, 3:00 PM ESPN
  • #8 North Carolina @ #41 Clemson – Sat. Mar. 2, 5:00 PM ESPN
  • #22 Cincinnati vs. #53 Memphis – Sat. Mar. 2, 7:00 PM ESPNU
  • #19 Nevada @ #34 Utah State – Sat. Mar. 2, 7:30 PM CBS Sports Net
  • #1 Gonzaga @ #39 Saint Mary’s – Sat. Mar. 2, 9:00 PM ESPN
  • #21 Marquette vs. #57 Creighton – Sun. Mar. 3, 2:00 PM FS1

Eliminated Teams vs. the Bubble:

Bubble teams cannot afford to take bad losses at this point. Most of the below would be cause for elimination if the Bubble contender does not prevail:

  • #143 Rhode Island vs. #66 Dayton – Fri. Mar 1, 6:00 PM ESPN2
  • #177 NJIT vs. #63 Liberty – Fri. Mar 1, 6:00 PM ESPN+
  • #308 N. Alabama vs. #47 Lipscomb – Fri. Mar 1, 6:00 PM ESPN+
  • #191 Wake Forest vs. #44 Syracuse – Sat. Mar. 2, 11:00 AM ACC Network
  • #163 Samford vs. #18 Wofford – Sat. Mar. 2, 1:00 PM ESPN3
  • #275 UT Chattanooga vs. #46 Furman – Sat. Mar. 2, 1:00 PM ESPN+
  • #115 West Virginia @ #42 Oklahoma – Sat. Mar. 2, 1:00 PM ESPNU
  • #95 Mizzou @ #86 South Carolina Sat. Mar. 2, 2:30 PM SEC Network
  • #188 Richmond @ #37 VCU – Sat. Mar. 2, 3:00 PM CBS Sports Net
  • #129 Austin Peay @ #52 Murray St – Sat. Mar. 2, 7:00 PM ESPN+
  • #317 SE Missouri St. vs. #45 Belmont – Sat. Mar. 2, 7:00 PM ESPN+
  • #110 DePaul vs. #59 St. John’s – Sun. Mar. 3, 11:00 AM FS1
  • #301 Tulane vs. #56 Temple Sun. Mar. 3, 1:00 PM ESPNU
  • #84 Oregon St. vs. #68 Arizona St. – Sun. Mar. 3, 7:00 PM ESPNU