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Bubble Banter: Louisville’s must-win game kicks off a thrilling day of bubble action

Louisville v Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - January 31: Head coach David Padgett of the Louisville Cardinals watches a play in the first half during a game against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena on January 31, 2018 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/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!: Nevada, who is a lock for the tournament, was trailing UNLV on the road in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament. They came back to win. If they had lost, the MWC would be sending a team without a shot at an at-large to the dance. In other words, someone’s bubble would have burst.

ALABAMA (RPI: 47, KenPom: 52, NBC seed: Next four out): Alabama landed a thrilling win over Texas A&M on Thursday afternoon, picking off Texas A&M on Thursday afternoon on a buzzer-beater layup from Collin Sexton that may be what ends up getting the Crimson Tide a bid to the NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide have 14 losses, two of which came against Quadrant 3 opponents, but they also now have six Quadrant 1 wins and a 10-12 record against the top two Quadrants. They’ve beaten both SEC co-champions (Auburn and Tennessee), Rhode Island, Texas A&M at home and on a neutral and won at Florida. Whether or not they beat Auburn on Friday, I think that they are in.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 35, KenPom: 72, NBC seed: 10): Providence landed an enormous win in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament as they outlasted Creighton in overtime. The Friars improved to 20-12 on the season with a 10-8 mark in the Big East. More importantly, the win over Creighton is their fifth against Quadrant 1 opponents and puts them over .500 -- 10-9 -- against the top two Quadrants. The big issue for the Friars is that they have three terrible losses, but even that got better today; because UMass’ RPI has improved enough that they are no longer a Quadrant 4 loss. The Friars still do have two other Quadrant 4 losses, but I should also note here that they’ve beaten both Xavier and Villanova this season and they’ll get another chance against the Musketeers tomorrow. I think they’ve going to be fine.

USC (RPI: 33, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: First four out): The Trojans are another in a long line of teams on the bubble with weird profiles. They have four Quadrant 1 wins and a 9-9 mark against the top two Quadrants, but they also have a disastrous home loss to Princeton (Quadrant 4, albeit missing a few rotation guys) and their best wins are not great. Middle Tennessee State looks like they’ll miss the NCAA tournament. New Mexico State needs to win their automatic bid to have a chance. Sweeping Utah and Oregon is fine, but neither of those teams are likely to be tournament bound. What about this résumé sets it apart from the rest of the bubble?

UCLA (RPI: 33, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: 11): UCLA knocked off Stanford in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday afternoon, a win that should just about get the Bruins into the NCAA tournament field. UCLA is now 8-9 against the top two Quadrants with a trio of pretty impressive wins -- Kentucky on a neutral, at Arizona, at USC -- and just one bad loss, which came at home against Colorado. A win over Arizona on Friday night might be enough to get the Bruins into the 8-9 game.

BUTLER (RPI: 36, KenPom: 24, NBC seed: 9): Butler was close to a lock before playing Seton Hall today. Then they went out and beat the Pirates. The Bulldogs are in.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 50, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: 9): I think that Kansas State probably just punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament with a win over TCU in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. They have four Quadrant 1 wins -- TCU at home, TCU on a neutral, at Texas and at Baylor -- and a 9-10 record against the top two Quadrants with no losses outside of the top two Quadrants. The mitigating factor here is that the Wildcats are ranked in the 320s in non-conference SOS and we know what the Selection Committee thinks of teams that won’t challenge themselves.


OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 86, KenPom: 51, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Cowboys are in some trouble now, and they will be one of the most fascinating cases on Selection Sunday. They are now 19-14 on the season after losing to Kansas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, but that was their first loss to the Jayhawks in three games against them this season. Their RPI is an atrocious 86th, but their KenPom numbers are much better. There are no bad losses on their résumé, but there are 14 “good” losses. They have five Quadrant 1 wins -- including a sweep of the Jayhawks during the regular season -- and nine wins against the top two Quadrants but they also have a non-conference SOS in the 280s. gives the Pokes a 34.5 percent chance of getting into the dance, and that sounds about right to me.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 31, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 12): Kermit Davis went out and lost to Southern Miss in the quarterfinals of the CUSA tournament on Thursday night, which is their worst loss of the season and comes on the heels of losing to Marshall in their regular season finale. The Blue Raiders now have two Quadrant 3 losses and a Quadrant 4 loss while their only good wins are at Murray State and at Western Kentucky. They’re in trouble, and likely headed for the NIT.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 57, KenPom: 50, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Golden Eagles could not take down Villanova on Thursday night in Madison Square Garden, meaning that they are now going to have to wait out the next three days to see if their name gets called on Selection Sunday. Their résumé is good -- four Quadrant 1 wins, 8-12 against the top two Quadrants and just one Quadrant 3 loss -- but they don’t have any great wins. They have not beaten an RPI top 25 team this season, although they have won at Seton Hall, Providence and Creighton. It’ll be tight. They are the cut line.

BAYLOR (RPI: 63, KenPom: 32, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Bears are in big trouble. They are now 17-14 on the season with just four Quadrant 1 wins and a 7-13 record against the top two Quadrants. They also lost at Iowa State, a Quadrant 3 loss. The good news is that they have a win over Kansas. The bad news is that that probably is not going to be enough to get them in. I would have Baylor behind teams like Oklahoma State, Alabama and Arizona State. They are going to be right there on the cutline.

TEXAS (RPI: 49, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 10): Texas lost to Texas Tech in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, which means that they are going to be sweating out Selection Sunday with the rest of the nation’s bubble teams. As it stands, the Longhorns have five Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-14 record against the top two Quadrants, but their best wins of the season -- TCU and Texas Tech -- are at home, and their best wins away from home -- Butler on a neutral and at Alabama -- aren’t quite as impressive as we thought at the time. I think Texas will be in.

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 39, KenPom: 34, NBC seed: Last four in): Louisville, at this point, looks like they are going to be on the wrong side of the bubble come Selection Sunday. There are a lot of reasons why, and I dove into them all in more depth here.

NOTRE DAME (RPI: 64, KenPom: 28, NBC seed: First four out): The Irish are in a tough, tough spot now. We went over why this Notre Dame team had to beat Duke last night. I think that, at this point, they are out.

UTAH (RPI: 58, KenPom: 65, NBC seed: Out): The Utes were in the conversation, but they needed to at least get to the Pac-12 tournament title game to have a real shot at an at-large. They lost to Oregon in the quarterfinals.