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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, March 11th

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Frogs take huge step towards the Big Dance, but still need more to stay atop a shrinking Bubble

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Texas Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

Frog Status

  • NET Rank: 47 (↑6)
  • RPI: 45 (↑7)
  • KenPom Rank: 48 (↑2)
  • ESPN BPI: 46 (↑6)
NET result for the away win over Texas

What a response! Season on the line, in a de facto NCAA Tournament elimination game, and the Frogs put on a virtuoso performance to rejuvenate the case for an at-large bid. TCU needed a hero and Desmond Bane went full-on Superman. As pundits and opposing fans have looked to bury the Horned Frogs, Jamie Dixon’s squad just refuses to die.

TCU did not get much help from around the country though, as the entire Bubble only lost 13 games over the weekend, six of which were head-to-head matchups with other Bubble contenders…and two of which were TCU non-conference opponents, hurting the Frogs’ resume. So even with the big win in Austin, TCU still needs more and needs some help to feel some confidence on Selection Sunday. Wednesday’s first round Big 12 Tournament showdown with #82 Oklahoma State remains critical. A win in Kansas City should put TCU pretty far up the Bubble pecking order, while a loss would have the Frogs barely hanging on. A win in round 1 would give TCU a third shot at one-seed #24 K-State, where a Q1 win would likely lock up a bid for the Frogs. With some conferences awarding automatic bids and major conferences ending the regular season, what did the weekend do to the Bubble picture?


What Helped?

  • #66 St. John’s (↓4) – The Red Storm are simply a mess – losing by double digits at #71 Xavier hasn’t quite eliminated them, but they are teetering on the edge. St. John’s gets the Big East tournament in their home building, but it hasn’t exactly been friendly confines, as their four worst losses this season all came at Madison Square Garden. They get #100 DePaul in the first round, but already lost to the Blue Demons twice this season. If they pick up a third we can remove St. John’s as an at-large threat.
  • #63 Butler (↓4) – Getting smashed by #74 Providence is not a great way to close the season. Luckily for the Bulldogs, they’ll get a chance at revenge in the first game of the Big East Tournament. If Butler drops that game to pick up their 16th loss of the season, they will certainly be eliminated, but given that the entire conference tournament would be Q2 or better, a run to the finals would be hard to ignore, so I am still considering them a low-tier Bubble threat.
  • #56 Minnesota (↓1) – The Golden Gophers could have nearly locked in a bid with a win at Maryland Friday night, so their failure in that opportunity keeps Minnesota simply hanging around in the Bubble race. The national pundits have decided that Minnesota has already secured a bid regardless of how the conference tournaments play out, but I am not convinced. They have a similar resume to TCU, with 3 Q1 wins and an opening round conference tourney game they are expected to win, but are 9 spots lower in NET than the Frogs and 9 spots lower in strength of schedule.
  • #41 Furman (↑1) – The Paladins cleared their SoCon Quarterfinal match against Mercer, but could not get past the 2-seed, #57 UNC Greensboro in the Semis. Despite a solid NET rank, Furman’s resume has very little chance of earning an at-large bid: 182nd strength of schedule; average NET win of 227, a Q4 loss and only one Q1 win. I think Furman had a chance if they made it to the SoCon championship and lost to Wofford, but without that opportunity Furman has to be considered eliminated.

What Hurt?

  • #62 Seton Hall (↓1) – How did the upper crust of the Big East allow this to happen? The Pirates should be eliminated by now, but won back-to-back games against the conference’s top 2 teams at home and would be a likely lock with a win in the Big East Quarterfinals against Georgetown.
  • #76 Georgetown (↑4) – Speaking of the Hoyas, they also got a huge win Saturday to stay in the race, defeating Marquette in Milwaukee. The game against Seton Hall is a likely elimination game.
  • #50 Temple (↑6) – You just knew this would happen – as soon as UCF secured the big wins needed to lock up a bid, they’d let one slide against a Temple team near the Bubble cut line. The Owls probably need another win to lock in a bid, but are definitely on the right side of things as they sit today.
  • #59 Liberty (↑4) – One of the mid-major conference tournament results we really did not want to see – the Flames defeating Lipscomb in the A-Sun Final hurts the TCU resume and steals a bid into the Big Dance. Even with the loss, the Bisons are still very much in the hunt to be granted an at-large bid. Considering the Frogs lost to Lipscomb at home earlier this season, it’d be hard to be too upset if the Bisons take a spot that could’ve otherwise gone to the Frogs.

Conference breakdown of the Bubble race

The weekend saw Liberty and Murray State earn automatic bids by winning the A-Sun and OVC conference championships, leaving potential at-large contenders Lipscomb and Belmont only able to anxiously watch and hope to hear their name called on Selection Sunday. Mississippi State successfully avoided slipping on their last obstacle, dispatching Texas A&M to guarantee a Tournament bid. Furman and ETSU were each eliminated from the SoCon Tournament in the semifinals and thus eliminated from at-large consideration. We are still left with 34 teams fighting for just 16 remaining at-large positions. TCU’s position among those contenders is certainly better today than it was prior to the win over the Longhorns, but there is still quite a bit to play out that will shake up this picture. Other than winning in Kansas City, the most critical games for TCU’s at-large chances are for Gonzaga to win the WCC Tournament and Wofford to win the SoCon Tournament - a loss for either would take away a spot that could have gone to the Frogs. With major conference tournaments starting, what else are we looking for this week?

What to (Bubble) Watch

Head to head:

  • #35 Clemson vs. #32 NC State – Wed. Mar. 13, 11:00 AM ESPN
  • #51 Indiana vs. #55 Ohio State – Thu. Mar. 14, 11:30 AM B1G Network
  • #33 Florida vs. #64 Arkansas – Thu. Mar. 14, Noon SEC Network
  • #58 Alabama vs. #34 Ole Miss – Thu. Mar. 14, 6:00 PM SEC Network
  • #49 Penn State vs. #56 Minnesota – Thu. Mar. 14, 6:00 PM B1G Network
  • #62 Seton Hall vs. #76 Georgetown – Thu. Mar. 14, 8:30 PM FS1

Top Teams vs. the Bubble:

  • #14 Wofford vs. #57 UNC Greensboro – Mon. Mar. 11, 5:00 PM CBS Sports
  • #20 Kansas vs. #39 Texas – Thu. Mar. 14 8:00 PM ESPN2
  • #23 Iowa St. vs. #36 Baylor – Thu. Mar. 14, 11:30 PM ESPN2

Eliminated Teams vs. the Bubble:

  • #102 San Diego vs. #37 Saint Mary’s – Mon. Mar. 11, 10:30 PM ESPN2
  • #99 Rutgers vs. #52 Nebraska – Wed. Mar. 13, 5:30 PM B1G Network
  • #74 Providence vs. #63 Butler – Wed. Mar. 13, 6:00 PM FS1
  • #TBD Pitt/BC vs. #44 Syracuse – Wed. Mar. 13, 8:00 PM ESPN
  • #100 DePaul vs. #66 St. John’s– Wed. Mar. 13, 8:30 PM FS1
  • #198 Wazzu vs. #61 Oregon– Wed. Mar. 13, 10:30 PM Pac12 Network
  • #71 Xavier vs. #54 Creighton – Thu. Mar. 14, 1:30 PM FS1
  • #297 Tulane vs. #53 Memphis – Thu. Mar. 14, 2:00 PM ESPNU
  • #TBD USC/Arizona vs. #38 Washington – Thu. Mar. 14, 2:00 PM Pac12 Network
  • #353 Chicago St. vs. #46 New Mexico St. – Thu. Mar. 14, 2:00 PM ESPN+
  • #TBD NIU/Ohio vs. #60 Toledo– Thu. Mar. 14, 5:30 PM ESPN+
  • #TBD UNM/Wyo vs. #30 Utah St. – Thu. Mar. 14, 8:00 PM CBS Sports
  • #TBD UCLA/Stanford vs. #67 Arizona St. – Thu. Mar. 14, 8:00 PM Pac12 Network
  • #TBD Ill/NW vs. #42 Iowa– Thu. Mar. 14, 8:30 PM B1G Network