The bubble is alive and well. Each night leading up to Selection Sunday presents both opportunity and heartbreak for bubble teams hoping to prove they’re worthy of a ticket to the tournament. Last night was a good night for teams on the bubble and we’re in for more treats this weekend.
The biggest win on Thursday came courtesy of the Arkansas Razorbacks, who went into to historic Rupp Arena and beat Kentucky 71-67 in overtime for their first win there in nine years. The Hogs are in no way a lock but have winnable must-win games against Georgia and Ole Miss at home before a road finale at Alabama.
Marquette kept their tournament pulse alive with a 75-73 home win over Georgetown thanks to Davante Gardner‘s 26 points and a 40-3 bench scoring advantage. Head coach Buzz Willams was feeling good after the win, especially about his big man, saying, “We call him ‘Avante.’ He doesn’t have any D. But he’s my guy.”
Oregon took care of business at Pauley Pavilion in a double-overtime thriller over UCLA, 87-83, keeping their tourney hopes in tact.
Gonzaga defeated Pacific and clinched their second straight West Coast title, likely cementing them in the tournament despite a lack of good wins.
This weekend features a handful of teams, if not more, looking to bolster the likelihood they’ll be dancing in March, highlighted by two games in both the Atlantic 10 and Big East.
Dayton Flyers vs. UMass Minutemen (Saturday, 11 am, ESPNU) – For Dayton (19-9, 7-6 A-10), a win here would certainly help but won’t put them definitively in the tournament. A loss wouldn’t kill the Flyers’ chances either but with a brutal road game at No. 10 Saint Louis on deck, this could be their season. Duquesne just snapped the Billikens’ 19-game winning streak but according to SLU head coach Jim Crews, his team “didn’t…quit, and that’s what we want. Hopefully they’ll continue with that mindset.” Meanwhile, UMass (22-5 9-4) is third in the conference, just three games back of SLU with three to play. The top four seeds get a bye into the A-10 tournament quarterfinals at the Barclays Center.
Richmond Spiders at Rhode Island Rams (Saturday, 2 pm) – Richmond (18-10, 8-5 A-10) didn’t do themselves any favors by losing on the road to lowly George Mason and may have already popped their own bubble. To have any chance, the Spiders need to get it together and can ill-afford to look ahead to a clash with VCU on March 6. Losing back-to-back games to teams at the bottom of the conference would all but assure Richmond an invite to a tourney other than the Big Dance.
Colorado Buffaloes at Utah Utes (Saturday, 2 pm, Pac-12 Network) – Colorado (20-8, 9-6 Pac-12) is above the cut but a brutal end of season schedule could change that in a hurry. They’ll begin a three-game road trip in Salt Lake City against Utah (16-9, 7-8), a team they needed OT to beat the first time despite outrebounding the Utes 41-23. The Buffs have marquee wins over then-No. 6 Kansas back in December and a 100-91 victory of then-No. 10 Oregon, both were at home. The Utes have lost just twice in SLC (to Oregon and Arizona) but are no threat to crack the field of 68 due to a soft schedule and a 1-7 record away from home. Colorado hopes to start their road trip off on the right foot with Stanford and Cal up next.
Xavier Musketeers vs. #9 Creighton Blue Jays (Saturday, 5 pm, FOX Sports 1) – Xavier (19-9, 9-6 Big East) has just one win over a tournament team (a 64-47 win over Cincinnati) but a recent road win at St. John’s helps their cause slightly. The problem is, every win the Musketeers have had this year has helped their cause just as slightly. They’ve played an extremely soft out of conference schedule and that may come back to bite them. Creighton (23-4, 13-2) is a lock and is looking to extend their current four-game winning streak. All the pressure is on Xavier in this one with a trip to Seton Hall up next before wrapping up the regular season at home against No. 8 Villanova.
Marquette Golden Eagles at #8 Villanova Wildcats (Sunday, 2 pm, CBS) – Marquette (17-11, 9-6 Big East) got a huge boost for their confidence with a two-point win over a Georgetown team that might have just flat-lined. A stiff test at Villanova (25-3, 13-2) looms next for Marquette and while Buzz Williams’ squad is still on the outskirts of the bubble, at least they’re in the conversation. At this stage in the game, every game is a must-win for the Golden Eagles.