Everything went to plan yesterday, as Wichita State beat Evansville handily and Harvard locked down the Ivy League's automatic bid by beating Yale. Just as important as bubble challengers in these final eight days will be bid thieves. When a team without a meaningful at-large resume wins an automatic bid at the expense of a team that will make the tournament anyway, the available spaces in the tournament diminish.
It's crunch time, and bubble teams are being squeezed from both sides. Here are the pertinent games for today. As per our established norms, cheer like mad against the teams in bold.
12:00 PM St. John's at Marquette FOX Sports 1
Both of these teams are lingering off the bottom of the bubble, and both of them have serious work to do if they want to get back into at-large contention. This game is especially interesting to Xavier fans and fans of the Big East in general, as it will help determine a lot of the early matchups in the Big East Tournament. Whoever wins this game will end up in fifth, and the loser could fall as far as seventh.
12:00 PM (18) Southern Methodist at (20) Memphis ESPN2
Both of these teams are hanging around the 9/10 seed line in most brackets. Frankly, losing this game won't be damaging except in the sense that it would be a missed opportunity for a good win. These teams play in a conference where there are a lot of potential bad losses to be had in the conference tournament; whoever picks up a win here will have a little bit of insultation in case of an early exit next week.
2:00 PM Georgetown at (6) Villanova FOX Sports 1
If Georgetown wins here, they can avoid playing the first round of games in the Big East tournament as long as Marquette beat's St. John's. More importantly, knocking off Villanova at Villanova would be a huge resume win for the Hoyas. Xavier doesn't want to see Georgetown in their first game of the Big East Tournament and doesn't want a bubble foe to grab a massive victory. Cheer for Georgetown to lose this one twice over.
2:30 PM Utah at Stanford Pac-12 Network
Somehow, Utah is still hanging around the bottom of the bubble despite having played one of the weakest non-conference schedules known to man. Three of Utah's six top 100 wins have come in their last three games, and Stanford would be a fourth in four. For their part, the Cardinal are in the last four in and have a chance to finally put a stake through Utah's heart here. There is a way to spin either result positively for Xavier, so you're free to follow your heart on this one.
4:00 PM Arkansas at Alabama
Alabama didn't end up being the resume win Xavier was hoping, but they can still do the Muskies a solid by knocking off Arkansas here. The Razorbacks are 8-8 against the RPI top 100, but they are 4-2 against the top 50 and 2-1 against the top 25. They only have one loss below the 100 mark in the RPI, so cheer for them to pick up a second one here to drop their resume back from where Xavier's sits.
4:00 PM Pittsburgh at Clemson
Despite playing .500 ball for the last six weeks or so, Pitt just won't quite die. Their 12-1 mark against a shoddy non-conference schedule is propping them up right now, as is the fact that they have no bad losses. Clemson wouldn't be a loss on par with, say, USC (just for instance), but it would be the Panthers' worst loss to date. Pitt is hanging around the bottom of the bubble right now, and a setback against Clemson would be a black mark on their resume.
4:00 PM Missouri at Tennessee ESPN
These teams have remarkably similar resumes, sit in 51st (Tennessee) and 55th (Missou, obviously) in the RPI, and are both at that line that divides the bottom of the bubble from the top of the NIT. The only meaningful difference between them for our purposes is that Tennessee has played Xavier twice, and every game they win bolsters X's resume just that much more. Pull for the Volunteers to beat Missouri here.
4:00 PM (3) Arizona at Oregon CBS
Oregon has won six consecutive games to claw their way back into the field and lost to the Wildcats by two at Arizona. The Ducks are probably safe right now unless they soil the bed in the Pac-12 tournament, but a win over Arizona today would remove any ambiguity from their resume and punch their ticket to the big dance.
5:00 PM Loyola Marymount vs Brigham Young and 9:00 PM Santa Clara vs Gonzaga ESPN2
I've grouped these games together because they are both WCC tournament games and there is some potential bid piracy afoot. BYU and Gonzaga are both likely in the field as it stands now, so all bubble teams are pulling for one of them to win the conference's automatic bid. Gonzaga's resume is weaker, and they may fall out with a loss here. Regardless of that, pull for chalk in the WCC tournament this weekend.
6:30 PM Colorado at California Pac-12 Network
Colorado is safely above the bubble for now, but I think we have seen how quickly that can change. The Buffs are in the 9/10 range as we speak, where Cal sits as one of the teams in that last four in/last four out discussion. California absolutely needs this game, while Colorado kind of needs it. Cheer for Colorado to get it anyway and hopefully drop California out of bubble contention in the process.
7:00 PM Richmond at Dayton
I think we can finally stop talking about Richmond after their latest loss, but Dayton is still very much alive and kicking. On a side note, I would swap Butler with UD in the Big East right now without a second's hesitation. I hate them both, but it's more fun to hate Dayton and they're actually good. Anyway, if UD loses this one, they may end up hosting a First Four game (or one in the NIT).
8:00 PM Providence at (13) Creighton CBS Sports Network
Providence needs a resume win. Creighton needs to get back on track after losing to Xavier and Georgetown. More importantly (to us), a Creighton win gives Xavier the three seed in the Big East tournament and keeps the Muskies from a potential second-game matchup with Villanova. Playing Marquette for a chance to take on Creighton is about the best Xavier can hope for right now, while it's still possible to face something like St. John's/Nova. It all hangs in the balance today.
8:36 PM Illinois at (24) Iowa Big Ten Network
Apparently whoever scheduled this start time doesn't feel like he/she gets enough attention. Iowa was rolling along at 19-6 before dropping four of five and finding themselves now in the vicinity of the bubble. The Hawkeyes are only 7-10 against the RPI top 100, and nobody is giving out brownie points for dropping home games to Illinois.