Bubble Watch: Arkansas, Oregon search for marquee wins

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

For fans of college basketball, late February and early March are synonymous with one word: bubble. Last night wasn’t a good night for bubble teams looking for another solid win with the regular season winding down. Bubble watch will continue to be in full swing until March 16, better known as Selection Sunday.

Cal lost at No. 3 Arizona, which isn’t necessarily a bad loss, it’s just how they lost that stood out — by 28 points. This lopsided defeat comes just a week after losing by 20 to UCLA in Berkeley.

Baylor missed a great opportunity to bolster their bubble position by losing at No. 24 Texas. After falling behind by 15 at the half, the Bears made a game out of it before falling 74-69. They play the next two in Waco before traveling to Kansas State for the regular season finale.

Richmond all but guaranteed themselves a trip to the NIT with a loss at George Mason. The Spiders host Rhode Island Saturday before concluding their regular season slate against fellow bubble teams VCU (at home) and at Dayton.

There are a few games tonight with big time bubble implications.

Arkansas Razorbacks at #17 Kentucky Wildcats (7 pm, ESPN) – Arkansas’ at-large chances would increase drastically with a win at Rupp Arena. Arkansas (18-9, 7-7 SEC) rides into tonight’s game looking to boost their bubble chances and sweep the season series from Kentucky (21-6, 11-3). You might remember how the first one ended, if not, a monster dunk from Arkansas’ Michael Qualls with .2 seconds remaining pushed the Hogs to an 87-85 win in overtime. 

Arkansas has won five of six and another signature win should put them in the tournament. For now.

Georgetown Hoyas at Marquette Golden Eagles (9 pm, FOX Sports 1) – The Hoyas are barely on the bubble while Marquette (16-11, 8-6) is on life support, so it’s a must-win for both teams. Regardless what bracket guru you listen to, Georgetown (16-11, 7-8 Big East) is one of the first four out while Marquette isn’t even on the board.  A win tonight could propel them ever so slightly while a loss for the Hoyas could be a kiss of death. Side note: Marquette was picked to win the conference according to the preseason Big East coaches’ poll while Georgetown was picked second.

Gonzaga Bulldogs at Pacific Tigers (10 pm, ESPNU) – Gonzaga (23-6, 13-3 WCC) has but one win over the RPI top 50 (an 84-69 thumping of BYU) and all their losses have come away from Spokane. Things may bode well for Pacific (14-13, 5-11) after seeing San Diego knock of the Zags on Sunday. In the first meeting, Gonzaga jumped out to a 46-25 halftime lead en route to an 86-64 win. GU shot the lights out, connecting on 69.2 percent of their shots, including 10-13 from long-range. Pacific will need to limit the open looks if they hope to play spoiler. A win for the road team would secure them a second straight West Coast title.

Oregon Ducks at UCLA Bruins (11 pm, ESPN2) – Oregon (18-8, 6-8 Pac-12) has zero signature wins this year, so a win at Pauley Pavilion over UCLA (21-6, 10-4), who’s cemented in the field of 68, would be huge. After a 13-0 start to the season, the Ducks are just 5-8 but have won three straight. The Bruins edged Oregon in the first meeting thanks to a putback by Travis Wear with five seconds left. Bad news for Oregon is they’re just 2-5 on the road in Pac-12 play. Oregon needs this win and as you may know, crazy things happen when teams are desperate.

 

Topics: Arkansas Razorbacks, Michael Qualls

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