Championship Week has taken a toll on the SEC's NCAA Tournament bubble teams, but Wednesday night finally provided a respite. Basically everything that could have broke their way, did.
Let's start with the ACC. Pittsburgh and Syracuse played in a game between bubble teams. Going into the game, the Bracket Matrix had Pitt in the field as a 10-seed and Syracuse the first team out. The Panthers barely held on and squeaked past the Orange 72-71, which is the result that other bubble hopefuls needed. When in doubt, root for the result that may definitively push a team out. The Orange may now be out for good.
Florida State had been lurking outside the bracket according to a few of the experts, but decidedly NIT-bound Virginia Tech upset them 96-85. Acceptable champion Duke also staved off an NC State upset bid 92-89, so it was a clean sweep in the relevant ACC games.
Out west, acceptable champion Colorado throttled Washington State 80-56, while acceptable champion USC blew away UCLA 95-71. Oregon State is probably fine for tournament inclusion too, and it put away Arizona State 75-66.
The only red flag of the evening came from TCU knocking acceptable champion Texas Tech out of the Big 12 Tournament. It's nothing to worry about right now though because the Big 12 still has five other acceptable champions alive. The Horned Frogs have a long way to go before they would become a bid thief. It's something to monitor but not to stress about just yet.
All right, so here's the Bubble Big Board for today:
|Conference||Acceptable Champions||Bubble Teams|
|A10||Dayton, St. Joe's||VCU, St. Bonaventure, G. Washington|
|AAC||Cincy, Temple||UConn, Tulsa, Temple|
|ACC||UVA, Miami, UNC, Duke, ND||Pitt,
|Big 12||Baylor, KU, ISU, OU, Texas,
|Big East||Villanova, Xavier, Seton Hall, Providence, Butler||None|
|Big Ten||MSU, UMD, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, UW||Michigan|
|Mountain West||San Diego State||San Diego State|
|Pac-12||Oregon, Utah, Cal, Arizona, Colorado, USC, Oregon State||None|
|Sun Belt||Arkansas-Little Rock||Arkansas-Little Rock|
The most relevant SEC bubble action is, of course, the teams themselves playing. The Vanderbilt Commodores will try to beat Tennessee for a third time this season, while the Florida Gators will attempt to pick up a second win over Arkansas. In both of these games, avoiding a loss is more important than winning. Vandy might be able to still make the tournament without a victory today—although I wouldn't like their chances—but UF is definitely in the NIT with a loss.
This week's set of conference tournaments kicks into high gear today.
San Diego State is one of the key teams to watch as it begins Mountain West Tournament play. The MW is one of two remaining conferences that are on the edge between getting one or two bids, so SDSU winning the auto-bid would mercifully prevent another bid theft. The other is the Sun Belt, but UALR has a bye today and doesn't play until tomorrow.
George Washington and Michigan are in the same place as Vandy and Florida, where they have little to gain with a win and will hurt themselves with a loss. The Colonials play Saint Louis, while the Wolverines tangle with Northwestern.
Pitt may have punched its ticket with its win over Syracuse, but if it hasn't, it would likely do so with a win over North Carolina today. If the Panthers emerge victorious, they'll probably slide over to the acceptable champions column.