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

Frogs bow out of the Big 12 Tournament, now await Selection Sunday fate

Big 12 Basketball Tournament - First Round
Desmond Bane continued his heroics, propelling TCU to a win over Oklahoma State
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Frog Status

  • NET Rank: 50 (↓3)
  • RPI: 47 (↓2)
  • KenPom Rank: 48 (-)
  • ESPN BPI: 50 (↓4)
NET result from the Big 12 Tournament games

We can talk about metrics and resume comparisons and all that, but please can we take another moment to enjoy this shot? Are we underestimating how truly spectacular this was? Maybe because of the opponent or the fact that this wasn’t a buzzer-beater or that it was quickly followed by a loss the next day, it won’t get the recognition it deserves. But I do not think it is hyperbole to say that this is one of the best moments in TCU Basketball history – this shot is the game winner that could send the Frogs to the NCAA Tournament. I suggest watching this video a few hundred more times to keep spirits high ahead of a dramatic finish to conference tournaments and what will certainly be a nerve-wracking Selection Sunday. So much happened through the week, what moved the needle for TCU’s at-large chances?

What Helped?

  • #60 UNC Greensboro (↓3) – Bubble watchers had a close eye on the SoCon Final, as the Spartans were keeping it close all game with Tournament lock Wofford. Had UNCG won, it would’ve guaranteed two bids for the traditionally one-bid league. However, the SoCon was especially strong this season, with four teams in the top 75, making the conference runner-up a tough case for the Committee. The case for: 28 total wins, 2 Q1 wins and no losses outside Q1. The case against: 2 of those wins were non-D1 and 15 were Q4, giving an average NET win of 217; zero top 40 wins, only two top 70 wins, only four top 100 wins. I personally think the case is stronger for exclusion over inclusion, but the Spartans are certainly still lurking as a Bubble threat.
  • #64 Butler (↓1) – The Bulldogs got absolutely pasted by #69 Providence in the opening round of the Big East Tournament, giving Butler its 16th loss and drops them from the NCAA Bubble to the NIT Bubble. Buh-bye.
  • #35 Clemson (-) Clemsoning has certainly been retired as it pertains to the football team, but rather than being fully killed, it appears to have transferred to basketball team. The Tigers held a 16 point halftime lead, with a 94.2% win probability. The gameflow was very similar to TCU’s game with OK State, as NC State chopped away at the lead and Clemson went through multiple long scoring droughts. The Pack kept their faint at-large hopes alive by overcoming that deficit to likely eliminate the Clemson. Goodbye Tigers.
  • #52 Creighton (↑2) – The Bluejays just lost their worst game of the season, falling to #70 Xavier in their Big East tournament opener. Creighton played a strong schedule (NET #14 SoS) and has zero losses in Q3/Q4, but with only 17 wins and home losses to fellow Bubble teams OSU, Seton Hall, and St, John’s, I think the Bluejays are no longer a threat to the Frogs.
  • #62 Toledo (↓2) – Toledo was one that I continued to list as a Bubble contender, despite all national Bracketologists considering them already eliminated. But entering the MAC Tournament, the Rockets only had six losses, two of which were to conference juggernaut Buffalo, and their resume was similar to that of Bubble media-darling UNC Greensboro. Any opportunity to truly enter the at-large conversation went away though, as the Rockets exploded upon entry to the tournament, falling to #139 NIU.
  • #37 Texas (↑2) – Eventually the accumulation of losses has to matter for entry into the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns picked up their 16th loss of the season to close the year with just a .500 record. Yes, according to NET they played the 5th toughest schedule in the nation and they faired rather admirably, with five Q1 wins, but a season sweep by the Horned Frogs puts Texas decidedly behind TCU in the Bubble pecking order. I cannot see the Committee including a 16-16 team in the field of 68, especially as the Bubble has continued to shrink and other Bubble teams continue to win. It’s time to graduate from Bovine University and matriculate to the NIT.
  • #72 St. John’s (↓6) – The Red Storm finally exorcised their Blue Demons, knocking off #102 Depaul in the Big East first round, but then got thoroughly outclassed by Marquette, losing by 32 on their home court. I still don’t know that this eliminates St. John’s, they have 5 Q1 wins (though none higher than #25) and 21 wins total, with only 2 Q3 losses. The plummeting NET ranking should be hard to ignore, but traditionally the Committee has leaned on “who did you beat?” as the deciding factor and a 10-10 Q1+Q2 record might still be enough, even in the new NET world.

What Hurt?

#34 St. Mary’s (↑3) – This was an absolute killer for Bubble teams, as the fringe contender Gaels took down WCC Goliath Gonzaga in the conference championship to earn the auto-bid. This will certainly tighten the Bubble and make matters more difficult for TCU and others around the cut line, as it was unlikely St. Mary’s would’ve earned an at-large bid, given the Bubble picture.

#49 Nebraska (↑3) – We just cannot get rid of the Cornhuskers, as they took an OT game over Iowa to close the regular season, survived Rutgers to open the Big Ten tournament, and just earned their biggest win of the season in knocking off #29 Maryland. Nebraska now gets a date with #16 Wisconsin in the conference quarterfinals, where a win would very much put them into the at-large discussion

#30 Utah St. (-) – The Aggies were a near lock going into their MWC tournament quarterfinal matchup against #184 New Mexico, but the Lobos were leading and hanging close through much of the game. If Utah State had lost this Q3 game, it would’ve been a major blow to the resume – perhaps not pushing USU off the Bubble, but potentially putting them into the play-in game. Alas, Utah State pulled out the win and secures a spot in the NCAA Tournament field.

#59 Seton Hall (↑3) – The Pirates put on an absolute show in MSG, as Myles Powell outscored Georgetown himself in the first half en route to a 16 point smashing of the Hoyas. This game eliminated Georgetown with certainty, but also has pushed Seton Hall into a likely-lock spot and a rubber-match with Marquette. A win Friday guarantees the Pirates will be dancing, but Thursday night’s performance could already enough to convince the Committee as a dwindling number of Big East teams remain in the race.

Conference breakdown of the Bubble race

Championship Week was certainly busy around the Bubble. This week eliminated Indiana, Texas, Clemson, Penn State, Butler, Georgetown, Toledo, and Arkansas while Creighton and St. John’s are now barely hanging on to a fringe Bubble spot. Washington and Utah State earned wins that guarantee they’ll be getting a bid. I still consider VCU and Baylor as Bubble teams, perhaps controversially as most places have locked them into the bracket. VCU has a great NET rank and only six losses, but the A10 was so bad this year that they have very few quality games – going just 5-4 in Q1+Q2 contests, and with two bad Q3 losses. If VCU adds another Q3 loss against Rhode Island, their resume is indistinguishable from other mid-majors fighting for the last at-large spots. As for Baylor, they are leaning on a very impressive 8-1 Q2 record to go with four top-notch Q1 wins, however they didn’t get to the 20-win threshold that the Committee seems to love and have two of the absolute worst losses by any Tournament-caliber team, falling at home to #231 Texas Southern and #310 Stephen F. Austin. The Bears are probably safe due to their quality wins, but may be seeded lower than you would expect. Make sure you continue to follow the Conference Tournament Rooting Guide over the next couple days to stay current on everything happening leading in to Selection Sunday. We of course want teams already locked-in to win their conference tournaments, preventing any further bid thieves (sorry West Virginia fans, this was cute but enough already) and we want all these lingering Bubble teams to drop out of their conference tournaments, preventing any further upward mobility. We are still left with 23 teams fighting for 14 remaining at-large spots. What is most critical to see this weekend to keep TCU’s hope alive?

What to (Bubble) Watch

Head to head:

#56 Oregon vs. #63 Arizona State – Fri. Mar. 15, 10:30 PM ESPN

Top Teams vs. the Bubble:

#8 Michigan St. vs. #55 Ohio St. – Fri. Mar. 15, 11:30 AM B1G Network

#14 LSU vs. #32 Florida – Fri. Mar. 15, Noon ESPN

#27 UCF vs. #54 Memphis – Fri. Mar. 15, 1:00 PM ESPN2

#16 Wisconsin vs. #49 Nebraska – Fri. Mar. 15, 1:55 PM B1G Network

#5 Kentucky vs. #58 Alabama – Fri. Mar. 15, 6:00 PM SEC Network

#12 Purdue vs. #57 Minnesota – Fri. Mar. 15, 6:00 PM B1G Network

#28 Marquette vs. #59 Seton Hall – Fri. Mar. 15, 8:00 PM FS1

#9 Michigan vs. #41 Iowa – Fri. Mar. 15, 8:25 PM B1G Network

Eliminated Teams vs. the Bubble:

#136 Rhode Island vs. #31 VCU – Fri. Mar. 15, 11:00 AM NBC Sports

#87 Wichita St. vs. #51 Temple – Fri. Mar. 15, 8:00 PM ESPNU