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Bubble Watch: 3/1

March begins with a fittingly crazy day full of games with tournament implications. We have game times, TV listings, and breakdowns for every single contest.

STARE DIRECTLY INTO THE BUBBLES
STARE DIRECTLY INTO THE BUBBLES
Mark Kolbe

There is almost no such thing as a good loss when you're on the bubble; every game is a potential win, and you can't let one of those slide by you. Providence was faced with just such a situation yesterday, as they took on and ultimately defeated a game Seton Hall squad. The Friars' hopes are tenuous, but they're not dead yet.

There are 136 NCAA Division I basketball games today. Upwards of 20 of them involve teams that still harbor realistic hopes of earning an at-large berth. For your convenience, I have grouped the games below by where on the s-curve the bubble team involved currently sits. Be aware that the first game tips off at 11am tomorrow, so don't waste too much time exercising or interacting with other people before you plant your hind end in front of the TV for a marathon of college basketball. As always, the teams in bold are battling for a bubble spot, so cheer against them if your team needs some help.

Currently in the tournament
These are games involving a team that would likely be in the field of 68 if the season ended today. Obviously, nobody in this particular group is feeling too settled, but they are the masters of their own fates (as it were) at this point in time.

1:30 PM Texas Tech at Baylor ESPN3
The Bears have been up and down this season, but they are currently holding down one of the last slots in the tournament. Texas Tech has mediocre computer numbers. Winning this one at home isn't going to launch Baylor into a comfortable position, but dropping it would sure make for a couple of uncomfortable weeks.

2:00 PM Colorado at Utah Pac-12 Network
This is a noon local time tip for Colorado, who comes into the game projected to land in the 9/10 seed range. Utah is NIT-bound at best, but the Jon M. Huntsman Center (Utah's arena, for those bad at guessing games) has been a tough venue to play in. The Utes have knocked off UCLA there and taken Arizona and Oregon to overtime. This is not an easy game for Colorado.

3:00 PM Saint Joseph's at St. Bonaventure NBC Sports Network
I hated seeing X play Saint Joseph's when we were in the A-10, but I kind of bear them no ill will now. Unless they're trying to steal Xavier's at-large bid, in which case I hope they lose at St. Bonaventure. Saint Joe's is very close to X on the s-curve right now. St. Bonnie is hanging right around 100th in the RPI, so losing at their place wouldn't hurt the Hawks too badly. It would hurt them some, though, so let's cheer for that.

4:00 PM UCF at (23) Southern Methodist ESPNews
A ranked team is on the bubble!? Yes, dear friends, media rankings are stupid and Santa Claus isn't real. This game is actually emblematic of how SMU got ranked but is still on the bubble: voters want to see wins, which they have been piling up in their mediocre conference, but ratings want to see real competition. UCF is floundering below the 200 mark in the RPI; SMU cannot afford to drop this game.

4:00 PM Oregon at USC Pac-12 Network
Let's clarify one thing right off the start: losing to USC is something that can happen to anyone (though it is something that did not happen to any of USC's last nine opponents). USC is 1-14 in Pac-12 play; while Oregon holds solid numbers in the computer rankings, this is a game they would rue giving away when Selection Sunday rolled around.

5:00 PM (9) Creighton at Xavier FOX Sports 1
If you're here, chances are you're at least passingly familiar with this game's implications already. If you need more information, check out our coverage of it, which is linked for your convenience at the bottom of this post. For the unitiated, Xavier has a solid resume but is looking to add another marquee win. Creighton would certainly qualify.

6:00 PM California at Arizona State Pac-12 Network
Truthfully, both of these teams could be considered on the bubble depending on who you believe. Arizona State holds a better resume right now and is probably a couple of seed lines higher than Cal if things wrapped up today. They don't, however, and whoever wins this game will come away with an impressive scalp.

6:00 PM Minnesota at (16) Michigan Big Ten Network
I wanted Minnesota to be awful because they fired Tubby Smith, who I kind of like. Annoyingly, they're still in the mix. A road win against a team that is likely to end up as a three or four seed would be very impressive for the Golden Gophers, but those are hard to come by. Minnesota already knocked off Iowa this week; if they can go to Michigan and get a win, they're going to be hard to keep out of the tournament.

9:00 PM (5) Kansas at Oklahoma State ESPN
Oklahoma State is an insanely talented team whose tournament hopes were cast in doubt by a seven-game losing streak from late January through mid-February. That streak included 4 overtimes spread over two games and another three losses by two or fewer possessions. If the Cowboys can get back on track, they'll be a low-seeded team with a chance to do some serious damage. Between hosting Kansas today and going to Iowa State next Saturday, they'll have their chances to make their case on the court.

10:00 PM Gonzaga at Saint Mary's ESPN2
Gonzaga's losses on the year: Dayton (neutral), K-State (neutral), @Portland, @Memphis, @BYU, @San Diego. Of those teams, only Kansas State is currently in the tournament. Their best win is probably @West Virginia. Beyond that, resume fodder is absent without leave. The Zags can hold serve and make the tournament, but any loss of concentration puts them in a distinctly difficult position.

Auto bids with at-large potential
These three teams all figure to win their conferences at a canter. If they don't, however, they still have a chance to make the tournament on the strength of their respective at-large resumes.

4:00 PM Green Bay at Detroit
I'll be honest, the only time I think about Green Bay in light of college basketball is when I'm researching the history of the packline defense. Beyond that, they're an afterthought to me. They've quietly put together a very good resume this year, however. They should cruise through the Horizon tournament; if they don't, they don't want losing this game on their resume.

7:00 PM Columbia at Harvard
Harvard is in a similar situation to Green Bay, except their guys will all go on to be lawyers or something and they don't have a conference tournament. Harvard currently holds a two-game lead in the standings over Yale and they play Yale on March 7th. Even if the Crimson drop this game, winning against Yale guarantees they will take home the Ivy League's auto bid.

8:00 PM Denver at North Dakota State ESPN3
Not sure how this one didn't get bumped to the mothership; probably an oversight by the folks at ESPN. Denver is 148th in the RPI and has already beaten NDSU once. The Bison (that's North Dakota State) lead the nation in field goal percentage, and they'll be hoping to avoid having the ignominy of seeing "Denver (2)" in the bad loss column when March rolls around.

Currently need help
These teams are currently on the outside looking in. They need to win out and have the teams above them falter along the way. Any dropped games among this group leaves them in desperate straits indeed.

11:00 AM Massachusetts at Dayton ESPNU
Oh my word, who doesn't love to hate the Flyers? Probably a lot of people, but I'm not one of them. UMass is solidly in the tournament, and this is a chance for UD to pick up a big resume win at home. I've always hated these silly early tip times, but that may be the extra edge UD needs. I'm actually kind of hoping they win this one and end up in the First Four so we can see a team play a home game in the NCAA tournament.

12:00 PM Vanderbilt at Tennessee
Every win by the Vols makes Xavier's early-season split against them look a little better. Sadly, those wins have been tough to come by lately for UT. Vandy gives them a chance for another RPI top 100 win, which would bring their record against such teams to 8-8. UT needs some help to crack the field; can I get a (wait for it) Volunteer? *drops mic, walks off stage to thunderous applause*

1:30 PM Mississippi State at Missouri
My mother-in-law cheers for Missouri. The Tigers are coming home after getting stomped by a mediocre Georgia squad, but they do boast an 8-8 record against the RPI top 100. Mississippi State is not in the RPI top 217, which means that losing this game would be a black mark from which the Missouri resume would be unlikely to recover.

2:00 PM Richmond at Rhode Island
Richmond is 8-10 against the RPI top 150 and hasn't picked up a good win in a month. They were once a darling of bubble prognosticators, but a rough run combined with the paucity of high-level competition in the A-10 has left them on the outside looking in. URI is 152nd in the RPI right now; Richmond has a chance to run their record against RPI sub-150 teams to a perfect 11-0, and they need to do so here.

4:00 PM Brigham Young at San Diego Root Sports
BYU is not a superficially impressive team, nor does their resume - including two losses against teams outside the RPI top 150 - immediately jump out at you. They do have the 3rd strongest non-conference schedule in the nation, though, and that has been their saving grace. San Diego would be their third such loss, and I can't see a team with that kind of shame making it into the tournament without more good wins than BYU has.

5:00 PM Northwestern at Nebraska ESPNU
Wins v. OSU and @Michigan State are keeping Nebraska in the conversation right now, as is the fact that they have taken care of business against the bad teams on their schedule. Northwestern is another such game, but the Huskers close with @Indiana and Wisconsin. Dropping this game wouldn't be the end of the world, but it would make those last two darn near must-win.

Currently desperate
We've been here before. These teams are scouring the schedule for potential big wins and hoping previous opponents catch fire to boost their strength of schedule. The next two weeks will be a frenzy of scoreboard watching and mostly vain hopes, but there's a chance one of these can pull off an unlikely resurrection of their at-large hopes.

12:00 PM Miami (FL) at North Carolina State ESPN3
I remember at the start of last season how NC State was a pre-season darling; now they're in serious trouble. There are a couple of reasons for hope, though. They lost to 'Cuse by one on the road a couple of weeks ago and took UNC to OT earlier this week. Also, they have TJ Warren, who is a complete bull who is averaging 28.8 PPG in his last five games. It's going to take something special to get the Wolfpack dancing, but having the best player on the floor is usually a good place to start.

1:30 PM TCU at West Virginia Root Sports
Root Sports has some good games today; I have no idea what they are and had never heard of them prior to sitting down to write this. WVa. has Juwan Staten - a ridiculously talent guard who Dayton chased away - leading them in points and assists and second in rebounding with a massive 18.1/6.0/6.0 game line. Dude can play some ball. If he gets enough help, his team can still make a go of this. Obviously, they can't lose to TCU.

4:00 PM LSU at (1) Florida CBS
What better opportunity to make an impression than visiting the number one team in the nation? The drawback to that, of course, is that you have to beat the number one team in the nation at their place. LSU's best road win right now is @Texas Tech; I'm skeptical of their ability to hand Florida its first conference loss.

6:00 PM Western Michigan at Toledo ESPN3
Toledo surprised a lot of people by winning their first 12 games before a respectable ten-point loss at Kansas. The Rockets' problem is an abominably soft schedule that leaves their best win being over Ohio University. A lot of teams are going to have to lose for Toledo to win an at-large berth, because they just don't have the opportunities in front of them to boost their resume.

There it is, every game today with a whiff of bubble importance lain out before you. Sorry to use the RPI so much, but that's what the committee looks at, so it's pertinent to this discussion. Bookmark this page, refer back to it throughout the day, and tell all your friends.