Is the NCAA Tournament bubble deflating? Getting bigger? Stay the same size as every season?
It depends on who you play and support.
In short, after Saturday, the bubble isn’t overly kind to the ACC or the Pac-12. There’s still time for all of these teams — North Carolina and Arizona State, namely — to fix things, but the window of opportunity is closing. All of the teams listed below could do themselves a favor by winning their respective conference tournaments. That would ease the stress for both their coaching staff and fans and give them momentum for the big dance. Seems reasonable, right?
Saturday for going out: The Big 12 continues to make waves
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Below are the bubble viewing winners and losers from Saturday. Remember that everything can change from day to day. This is an especially important note considering Rutgers, another bubble team, plays Northwestern on Sunday.
The best way to break out of the bubble and ensure that the committee thinks well of you, of course, is to win a statement. The Tigers did just that in their 79-70 loss at No. 14 Tennessee – and they knew what was at stake.
“We’re at a point right now where it’s win or go home, so nobody’s worrying about their stats,” said Wendell Green Jr., who led the Tigers with 24 points. “We just lost to Kentucky and Alabama so we knew we had to win. We see all the bracketologist stuff, so we knew we had to win.”
Thanks also to Green for reading.
A 68-65 win over fellow bubble team Arizona State bolsters the Trojans’ case, especially considering they controlled the game for more than 30 minutes (though things got a little shaky in the final few minutes).
The Trojans are about 15 spots ahead of ASU and on the NET. That means if the Pac-12 is destined to field just three teams in the Big Dance, USC has the stronger case right now; UCLA and Arizona are already locked in, of course. USC finishes as the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12, giving it a berth in the first round of the conference tournament. Fresh legs are always handy if you’re trying to go for a run and hold your spot.
The best argument the Cowboys have for themselves is that they play in the toughest conference in America – every team in the Big 12 could probably win at least one NCAA Tournament game if they all got in. The second best argument going for them after They won another game on Saturday, beating Texas Tech 71-68. Now, Texas Tech isn’t one of the Big 12’s top teams, so OSU needs a solid Big 12 conference tournament run to solidify its postseason plans.
What a difference one year makes. We’re approaching the anniversary of UNC’s national semifinal victory over its hated rival, which not only sent the Tar Heels to the national championship game, but also ended the Hall of Fame career of one Mike Krzyzewski.
But that magic was nowhere to be found Saturday against the current Duke team. UNC lost 62-57 in a game that was tight, but definitely not pretty – and one that keeps the Tar Heels on the bench.
Poor Pitt. Despite being near the top of the ACC standings, no one really believes in the Panthers. Miami did almost everything it could to lose on its senior day, but Pitt couldn’t capitalize, falling 78-76.
On the surface, 14 conference wins seems solid – the problem is that the ACC is downright bad this year, and that could spell trouble for the Panthers if they fall out of the conference tournament early. If that happens, Pitt will join a handful of teams sweating it out on Sunday.
Losing to the team right next to you in the standings is no way to the hearts of the selection committee, which makes Boise State’s 86-73 loss to Utah State a negative. The Broncos are probably still good in terms of making the NCAA Tournament, but winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament would be a big deal. (Boise State is the No. 2 seed. Utah State, also a bubble team, is the No. 3 seed, and No. 19 San Diego State is the No. 1 seed and favorite to win.)
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: North Carolina’s big weekend loser