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Bubble Banter: Alabama and Providence are dancing, but Nevada’s loss pops a bubble

SEC Basketball Tournament - Second Round

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 08: Collin Sexton #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second round of the 2018 SEC Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 8, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Thursday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.


EVERYONE ON THE BUBBLE: One day after Nevada erased a double-digit deficit to knock of UNLV the Wolf Pack found a way to trail by 30 points to San Diego State at the half. As good as SDSU has been playing of late, the Aztecs are not a team with anything close to a chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. No one in the Mountain West is ... well, except for Nevada, who is a lock for the tournament as the No. 11 team in the RPI. Our first and only bid thief! We just don’t know who the thief is just yet.

UCLA (RPI: 34, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 11): UCLA’s Pac-12 tournament came to an end of Friday night, as the Bruins lost in overtime to top-seed Arizona behind another mammoth performance from their star center Deandre Ayton. At this point, I think UCLA will be in. They have three Quadrant 1 wins, an 8-9 record against the top two Quadrants and that one Quadrant 3 loss to Colorado at home. But what they have that’s more impressive than the rest of the teams around them on the bubble is a trio of really, really good wins: Kentucky on a neutral court, Arizona on the road, USC on the road. The committee values big wins, and those carry more weight than other Quadrant 1 wins.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 52, KenPom: 43, NBC seed: 8): The Wildcats got the win that they needed on Thursday night against TCU. That should be enough to get them into the tournament and out of a play-in game, even with this loss to Kansas. If there is a concern, it’s that their best wins are against TCU and at Texas. If anything, I think that -- combined with their atrocious non-conference SOS -- will drop them a seed line lower than you might expect them to be.

USC (RPI: 33, KenPom: 36, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Trojans knocked off Oregon in the Pac-12 semifinals, setting themselves up with a game against Arizona for the tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. If they win they’re in. If they lose, I don’t think that it dings them enough to miss out on the tournament, but it will be close. They do not have a win over a team that is guaranteed to be in the NCAA tournament; New Mexico State and Middle Tennessee State are their best wins.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 68, KenPom: 62, NBC seed: Out): The Bulldogs needed to make a run to the SEC title game to have a real shot at hearing their name called on Selection Sunday. On Friday night, they lost to Tennessee in the quarterfinals. The NIT it is.


ALABAMA (RPI: 45, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: Play-in game): Alabama outscored Auburn 50-22 in the second half, turning a 10-point deficit into an 18-point win in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament and, with that win, punched their ticket to the Big Dance. As it stands, Alabama now has seven Quadrant 1 wins and an 11-11 record against the top two Quadrants with three losses to Quadrant 3 opponents. They’s beaten the SEC co-champions Tennessee and Auburn a total of three times and have a win over Rhode Island. Their worst loss of the year -- Minnesota -- came in a game where they had just three players on the floor at the end of the game at a time when the Gophers were a top 25 team.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 22, KenPom: 65, NBC seed: 9): The Bonnies avoided a loss to Richmond on Friday night, and that should just about get them into the tournament. Their biggest issue at this point is avoiding the kind of dreadful loss that would hurt their résumé enough to allow some of the other bubble teams to pass them, but it’s hard to see that happening with a date with Davidson appearing likely in the semifinals.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 35, KenPom: 66, NBC seed: 10): If the Friars weren’t in the dance before today, they are now. They erased a 17-point second half deficit to knock off Xavier, the Big East regular season champs.