It’s that time of year where everyone’s favorite ambiguous term is constantly thrown around and associated with dozens of schools, the word is bubble. The college basketball bubble watch is on for this March’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and yours truly will be here each Friday to break down teams on the bubble and note which have helped and hurt their cases.
Arkansas Razorbacks 19-7 (8-5) RPI: 34 KenPom: 53
Key Wins: UT-Arlington, @Tennessee, @South Carolina
Key Losses: Mississippi State, @Missouri
As was mentioned in the B-Fox and B-Frank Show, Arkansas picked up a big win over #21 South Carolina on the road. The Hogs are trending in the right direction, but have very few chances to pick up quality wins in the weak SEC. Their remaining chance(s) are at Florida on March 1 and home against Georgia to close the season. Georgia is right on the cusp of top 50 RPI so by the time that game is played, the Bulldogs could very well be out of the top 50 losing the “quality win” status.
Seton Hall Pirates 16-9 (6-7) RPI: 40 KenPom: 55
Key Wins: California (Neutral Floor), South Carolina (Neutral Floor), Creighton
Key Losses: @St. Jonh’s
Up until last Saturday, the Pirates had lacked a real marquee win and a bad loss. In the span of 4 days, they would pick up one of each. The Hall lost for the first time in 5 trips to Madison Square Garden last Saturday against a much-improved St. John’s team. Just 4 days later, the Pirates, behind a career night from Khadeen Carrington, beat the 20th ranked Creighton Blue Jays in Newark to add that marquee win to their resume. The Hall is still squarely on the bubble leaning towards in right now, but could use a win over 2nd ranked Villanova, who comes to town tomorrow, or Xavier who they take on next week. A win over either team should propel The Hall to an at-large bid, barring a 2011/12-esque meltdown to finish the season.
Illinois State Redbirds 21-5 (14-1) RPI: 35 KenPom: 47
Key Wins: Wichita State
Key Losses: @Murray State
The Redbirds have no room for error right now. They are currently trending up because as you will see as you keep reading, there are a lot of teams that are trending the wrong way. They lack a really good win, Wichita State is a fringe top-50 team and a loss for the Shockers would end any hope for either team to get an at-large bid. ISU has the fortune of a weak end of the season schedule after they escaped against Missouri State on Wednesday. They need a strong showing in Arch Madness and more bubble teams to keep losing if they can’t find a way to win the MVC Tournament.
Texas Tech Red Raiders 17-9 (5-8) RPI: 35 KenPom: 37
Key Wins: West Virginia, TCU, Baylor
Key Losses: @Oklahoma, @Texas
Man, this team looks like a surefire Tournament squad and then you peep their resume and see those two glaring losses at Oklahoma and Texas, woof. The Red Raiders nearly pulled off the best week of any team in the country, as they lost to Kansas by just a point and beat Baylor a few days later. Texas Tech has a bevy of chances to secure a bid with games against top 50 West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Iowa State coming up — Kansas State currently sits 55 and the Raiders close the season against them — just avoid another bad loss to Texas and pick up a single win and Tech will be dancing.
Rhode Island Rams 16-9 (8-5) RPI: 60 KenPom: 56
Key Wins: Cincinnati
Key Losses: Fordham
There was so much hype around this Rhody team coming into this season with a healthy EC Matthews and Kuran Iverson, there was no telling what the Rams could do. And then they played the games. Rhode Island has been one of the biggest disappointments in this college basketball season and the loss AT HOME against Fordham was the exclamation point. Really tough year for a very talented team that just couldn’t put it together. There is still a slim hope as the Rams play an easy schedule down the stretch excluding their last chance for a quality win against VCU before the A-10 tourney. Given the right seed, Rhode Island can go on a run in their conference tourney and add a quality win or two getting them back in talks, but for now, it looks like a long shot.
Indiana Hoosiers 15-12 (5-9) RPI: 80 KenPom: 44
Key Wins: Kansas (Neutral Floor), North Carolina, Michigan State
Key Losses: @Fort Wayne
The Hoosiers have the most quality wins in the Big Ten and sit on the outside of the tournament field looking in and that field continues to get harder and harder to see as IU has now dropped 6 of their last 7. There is no margin for error for Indiana if they want an at-large bid. They have two top 50 games left this season against Northwestern and @ Purdue. The Northwestern game is winnable and the Hoosiers played the Boilermakers very well in Bloomington just a few weeks back. Finish the year 4-0, climb back to 9-9 in conference play and grab a pair of Ws in the Big Ten tourney and you’re dancing. That is far easier said than done.
Kansas State Wildcats 16-10 (5-8) RPI: 55 KenPom: 29
Key Wins: @Oklahoma State, West Virginia, @Baylor
Key Losses: NONE
K-State has a really nice looking resume, their worst loss is to RPI 81 Texas Tech. They boast 3 wins (really should be 4) over top 50 teams and KenPom absolutely loves this team. Their issue is the conference record of 5-8 and the Cats have lost 6 of their last 7 (all to top 50 RPI teams) since beating West Virginia. K-State has an easy schedule, for the Big 12, to finish up the year with just two games against top 50 teams. Split those and win the rest and they should be dancing easy, the key right now is to end this slide before it gets out of hand. Their next game is at Texas and boy would this be a bad time to pick up a bad loss like that.
Clemson Tigers 14-11 (4-9) RPI: 53 KenPom: 36
Key Wins: Georgia, @ South Carolina, UNC Wilmington, @ Wake Forest, Wake Forest
Key Losses: Oklahoma (Neutral Floor)
The Tigers are a team that pisses a lot of people off this year. They have a plethora of good wins this season, but just 3 total wins since the start of 2017. Clemson has a 3-9 record since the calendar flipped and they are still considered a fringe tournament team. That is the nature of college basketball this season, the bubble is extraordinarily weak and because of that teams like Clemson, who play in the brutal ACC are able to steal a couple wins and get into the at-large conversation. With that being said, Clemson has 3 more chances for quality wins and then two games they absolutely cannot lose to end the year against Boston College and NC State.