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March to Madness: NCAA Basketball Bubble Watch, March 8th

As the regular season comes to a close, what do the Frogs need to remain in the race?

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

Frog Status

  • NET Rank: 53 (↓5)
  • RPI: 52 (↓10)
  • KenPom Rank: 50 (↓3)
  • ESPN BPI: 52 (↓4)
The NET result for the home loss to K-State

This has been some week for TCU, filled with negativity, controversy, and sadness starting with the above performance. But losing to the Big 12-leading Wildcats did not eliminate the Frogs from the 2019 NCAA Tournament – it’s another gut punch, but we’re still standing. The path is getting increasingly more difficult, though. If the Big 12 is only getting 7 teams into the Dance, it is now between Texas and TCU for the final spot, so Saturday’s showdown in Austin stands as a near elimination game. A win puts the Frogs back in a solid Bubble spot, where a win in the conference tourney would give a bit of confidence on Selection Sunday and two wins in Kansas City would lock in a bid. Lose Saturday and it’ll take two wins in the tourney to have any realistic chance. The stakes cannot get any higher, as two wins are necessary for TCU to stay in the race.

Along with the wins, the Frogs need some help to stay ahead of the remaining Bubble contenders. The number of available at-large spots is shrinking and will only continue to do so as borderline teams earn wins to move into Lock status and bid-thieves win conference tournaments. There was a lot of movement on the Bubble this week, so let’s take a look at what happened and then look ahead to what help we can get this weekend.

What Helped?

  • #78 Texas A&M (↓9) – Whatever tiny glimmer of hope NET was offering the Aggies was completely snuffed out this week as A&M took a 17-point beating in College Station at the hands of #83 South Carolina. A long and impossible run to an SEC Tournament championship is now officially the only hope for these Aggies to go dancing.
  • #52 Nebraska (↓1) – The ‘Huskers got trounced in East Lansing, as #8 MSU dominated throughout. It’s the 15th loss on the season for Nebraska, dropping them to 13th place in the B1G. That is a deep hole to climb out of, but I just can’t classify Nebraska as eliminated yet - No bad losses: of those 15 losses, only 3 are Q2 and the rest are Q1; Bubble wins over Clemson, Indiana, PSU, Creighton, Minnesota, Seton Hall; B1G schedule: they get another Q2 opportunity this weekend against Iowa and as it stand the entire Big Ten Tournament would classify as Q2 or better.
  • #35 NC State (↓4) – The Wolfpack lost at home to sub-100 Georgia Tech to pick up their 2nd Q3 loss of the season. With the #212 Strength of Schedule (#352 non-conference schedule!), NC State cannot afford such lowly losses and make a strong case for inclusion. Lose another sub-100 game this weekend against Boston College and the Pack will be on the outside looking in.
  • #51 Ohio State (↓8) – Losing by 18 points to the Big Ten’s last place team, #84 Northwestern, was enough to cause the Buckeyes to take a major drop down the NET rankings and a step back into the middle of the Bubble. We would really like #15 Wisconsin to crush OSU this weekend to keep the Buckeyes from climbing to the top of the Bubble.

What Hurt?

  • #55 Minnesota (↑1) – The Gophers got a signature win over #12 Purdue, which produced a calm and reasonable court storming. The win was Minnesota’s third Q1 win to go with zero Q3/Q4 losses. With only #28 Maryland remaining in the regular season, have to think the Gophers are in a strong Bubble position, pretty unlikely to fully fall off the cliff at his point, and very difficult for other contenders to surpass them. Ugh
  • #39 Oklahoma (↑3) – The Sooners officially ended THE STREAK, soundly defeating Kansas to ensure the Jayhawks would not win another Big 12 regular season championship. In doing so, OU almost certainly locked up a bid to the NCAA Tournament, as even if they lose at #27 K-State Saturday and in the first round of the conference tournament, it wouldn’t be enough to bring them down from this high. Ugh
  • #30 Utah State (-) – We were so close to sending these Aggies back down into the center of the Bubble. #179 Colorado State was up a bucket with the ball and under a minute to play…and closed regulation by missing a layup and fouling Utah State’s star, who hit the free throws to send the game to OT. As so often happens, the overmatched team looks especially so in the extra period and the Aggies escaped with a win. This is why, despite a high NET rank, I hesitate to call Utah State a lock, because there are still potential bad losses ahead.
  • #61 Seton Hall (↑2) – This one probably hurt the most. The Pirates were coming off a loss at Georgetown and still had the top two Big East teams on the schedule. It seemed most likely they’d drop those two games, fall to the bottom of the below-average conference, and likely never be heard from again. Instead, we have to believe in ghost stories again, as Seton Hall is very much alive in the Bubble race with the shocking victory over #29 Marquette.
  • #40 Clemson (-) – Another close call for a Bubble contender that fell just on the wrong side for us. The Tigers escaped with a win over sub-100 Notre Dame thanks to some last second missed free throws. Clemson is one of TCU’s closest Bubble competitor and this game could’ve been a huge help to put the Frogs ahead in this battle, alas the Tigers live to fight another day.

Conference breakdown for the Bubble race

This past week locked in Auburn and Oklahoma while eliminating Xavier, Providence, and Texas A&M. This leaves us with only 17 available at-large positions and 39 Bubble teams still realistically in the hunt. Many are on the brink of lock status with another big win, or barely holding on awaiting that last push into the abyss. This weekend will have a huge impact on how this shakes out, so what are we looking for while scoreboard watching?

What to (Bubble) Watch

Head to head:

  • #40 Clemson vs. #41 Syracuse – Sat. Mar. 9, 11:00 AM CBS
  • #66 Arkansas vs. #57 Alabama – Sat. Mar. 9, 5:00 PM SEC Network
  • #32 Washington vs. #64 Oregon – Sat. Mar. 9, 9:00 PM ESPN
  • #52 Nebraska vs. #45 Iowa – Sun. Mar. 10, 1:00 PM B1G Network
  • #43 Lipscomb vs. #63 Liberty – Sun. Mar. 10, 2:00 PM ESPN

Top Teams vs. the Bubble:

  • #28 Maryland vs. #55 Minnesota – Fri. Mar. 8, 6:00 PM FS1
  • #25 Villanova @ #61 Seton Hall – Sat. Mar. 9, 11:00 AM Fox
  • #5 Kentucky vs. #33 Florida – Sat. Mar. 9, 1:00 PM CBS
  • #18 Kansas vs. #38 Baylor – Sat. Mar. 9, 1:00 PM ESPN
  • #29 Marquette vs. #80 Georgetown – Sat. Mar. 9, 1:30 PM Fox
  • #26 UCF vs. #56 Temple – Sat. Mar. 9, 3:00 PM ESPN2
  • #15 Wisconsin @ #51 Ohio State – Sun. Mar. 10, 3:30 PM B1G Network

Eliminated Teams vs. the Bubble:

  • #156 Eastern Michigan @ #60 Toledo – Fri. Mar. 8, 6:00 PM ESPN+
  • #130 Austin Peay vs. #44 Belmont – Fri. Mar. 8, 7:00 PM ESPNU
  • #171 St. Joseph’s @ #31 VCU – Fri. Mar. 8, 8:00 PM ESPN2
  • #136 Jacksonville St. vs. #48 Murray State – Fri. Mar. 8, 9:00 PM ESPNU
  • #77 Providence vs. #59 Butler – Sat. Mar. 9, 11:00 AM Fox Sports Net
  • #113 Boston College vs. #35 NC State – Sat. Mar. 9, 1:00 PM ACC Network
  • #78 Texas A&M @ #21 Mississippi St. – Sat. Mar. 9, 1:00 PM ESPN2
  • #282 UT-Chattanooga vs. #68 ETSU – Sat. Mar. 9, 1:30 PM ESPN+
  • #75 Mizzou vs. #36 Ole Miss – Sat. Mar. 9, 2:30 PM SEC Network
  • #90 Arizona vs. #71 Arizona State – Sat. Mar. 9, 3:00 PM CBS
  • #73 Xavier vs. #62 St. John’s – Sat. Mar. 9, 4:00 PM Fox
  • #TBD Samford/Citadel vs. #58 UNC Greensboro – Sat. Mar. 9, 5:00 PM ESPN+
  • #98 DePaul@ #54 Creighton – Sat. Mar. 9, 7:00 PM FS1
  • #214 Mercer vs. #42 Furman – Sat. Mar. 9, 7:30 PM ESPN+
  • #164 Cal Baptist @ #46 New Mexico St. – Sat. Mar. 9, 8:00 PM WAC Digital
  • #96 Tulsa @ #49 Memphis – Sat. Mar. 9, 8:30 PM ESPNU
  • #101 Illinois @ #47 Penn State – Sun. Mar. 10, 11:00 AM FS1
  • #97 Rutgers @ #50 Indiana – Sun. Mar. 10, 11:00 AM B1G Network