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Now the bubble gets serious

Here are the games to watch, and the teams to cheer against, as you prepare for Xavier.

I SAID SERIOUS, LITTLE GIRL
Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

I probably don’t need to mention this here, but the most important bubble game for Xavier is the one they are playing. Lose it and they can (maybe) pack their bags for the 16 team NIT. Win it and they essentially only hold serve and earn the chance to play a game that can actually get them in the tournament. It’s at 6PM on FS1. Don’t miss it.

The opening day of the big conference tournaments is heavy on bubble implication in the ACC. Things will heat up in earnest on Thursday.

NC State v. Syracuse, Noon, ACCN

Syracuse is the team currently most likely to take Xavier’s place if the Musketeers falter. Like X, the Orange need two wins to get in. Thankfully, there are no reasons at all to like Syracuse. Cheer for Jim Boeheim to lose. Or, if you are concerned about karmic deficit (a consideration I only ponder in March), think of it as cheering for the Wolfpack to win.

Duke v. Louisville, 6:30, ACCN

Louisville lacks quality wins this season. Right now the Cardinals and Chris Mack are an 11 seed on Bracket Matrix. Would a loss to Duke doom them? Maybe not, but it would cast some doubt on their inclusion. Duke, meanwhile, probably needs to win three more to have an at-large candidacy. A double loss isn’t possible and, as repugnant as it may be, a Duke win isn’t as immediately damaging to Xavier.

North Carolina v. Notre Dame, 9:00, ACCN

This isn’t likely actually a bubble game. UNC should be in already. It is, however unlikely, that they could get destroyed here and slip from their projected ten seed. If that happens things have well and truly gone wonky, but what else is there to do at 9pm in March but hope for the absurd?

Other potentially fun games to keep an eye on are:

  • Army v. Loyola (Md) in the Patriot League semis. The Black Knights have never even made their conference final, let alone the NCAA tournament.
  • Xavier opponent Oklahoma takes on Iowa State. The Cyclones, formerly a real college basketball power, somehow contrived to go 2-21 this season.
  • Bucknell and Colgate meet up in the other Patriot League game. Both teams are in the top 30 in shortest average possession length. Colgate shoots extremely well, Bucknell goes fast for no immediately apparent reason. This game starts at 730, so if the Xavier game leaves you in the mood for more ball, it will still be rolling.