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Bubble Watch 3/8

The bubble isn’t active tonight, but the tournament field will start to take a more clear shape.

West Ham United v Crystal Palace - Premier League
I’ve decided claret will be lucky for the Musketeers this March
Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Things didn’t change a lot overnight. San Francisco rallied late to run Gonzaga sort of close. Unless you just flat out hate fun stories and don’t want to see them, the Dons are in. Furman and Chattanooga played an absolutely bonkers game in which Furman allowed 16 points and led by ten at the half before giving up a 24-4 run. The Paladins took the lead twice in the final minute of overtime as Mike Bothwell hoisted the team on his back and gave them the lead with under four seconds to play. With the Mocs trailing by two, they eschewed the timeout and did this instead:

Nice work if you can get it. Praise Jesus, the refs didn’t stop the clock for an interminable review of a tenth of a second and just let the game run. Because of that we got this moment. College basketball, when just the game, is the best thing on earth.

Heat Check CBB is one home of the most accurate bracketologists and some of the best coverage there is. After last night’s game, this is what they had to say about Xavier: “Xavier will face Butler in its first game of the Big East Tournament. The Musketeers need that win to avoid profusely sweating out Selection Sunday. That matchup is one of the most important of the bubble all week.” There are two implications there. 1). Xavier could get in by just beating Butler. 2). There will be sweat involved if Xavier only beats Butler. Win two, get in. Win one, spend Sunday in a lowkey panic.

There really aren’t any bubble games today. The teams playing in the first round of the ACC tournament need to win the auto bid to get into the tournament. The teams playing in other tournaments are in the same boat. That doesn’t mean there isn’t meaningful ball to watch. Short of Saturday, this is the day in which the most auto bids are awarded.

Bellarmine v. Jacksonville, 5:00 PM, ESPN, ASun Final

Dontarius James was Jacksonville’s best player last year. He wasn’t this year, because he transferred to Howard and has yet to play. This matchup went to overtime in the regular season. Watch for Jacksonville’s three point gunner Kevion Nolan and the explosive CJ Fleming for Bellarmine.

UNCW v. Delaware, 7:00 PM, CBSSN, CAA Final

It’s a matchup of fowl as the Seahawks take on the Blue Hens. This was a seven point game in the regular season, but a UNCW 16-3 run in the second half ended it as a contest long before the final horn sounded.

Wright St v. NKU, 7:00 PM, ESPN, Horizon Final

Fans hoping for Dennis Gates to take over for Travis Steele will be happy to learn that Cleveland State didn’t make the final and Gates can start putting that CV together earlier. Instead we get this matchup featuring an NKU team determined to make the game as slow as possible and a Raiders team that beat them twice this season and was just edged by 44 by Purdue.

Wagner v. Bryant, 7:00 PM, ESPN2, NEC Final

Wagner isn’t half bad (127th in the KenPom), but has lost to Bryant and needed OT to beat them. Alex Morales does everything and does most of it well for Wagner. He’ll be facing a Bryant team that absolutely launches threes and features three players who have taken more than 150, including Adham Eleeda, who has taken 257 in 30 games. Don’t be bashful, young man.

North Dakota State v. South Dakota State, 9:00 PM, ESPN2

It’s a bitter border war (maybe, I actually have no idea) as the Bison take on the Jackrabbits. If, like most Xavier fans, you are starved for three pointers, SDSU is the team to watch. No team in the nation makes higher than their 44.3% from deep. They don’t shoot a ton, but they are surgical.

Gonzaga v. Saint Mary’s, 9:00 PM, ESPN

Both of these teams will be dancing no matter what happens here. Gonzaga is really good, but you’ll be seeing them in a couple of weekends anyway. Saint Mary’s is the underdog, but they’re nationally ranked and a very good team. Use this time slot to watch the other game.