Forget the Bubble: Gonzaga Controls its Own Destiny

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Last week, we reported on the fate of five NCAA men’s basketball teams who are on the bubble as concerns making it to this year’s tournament. Of the five, Gonzaga appears to be in the best shape and may still make the Field of 68 even if they aren’t able to beat St. Mary’s tonight or win the West Coast tournament title.

No other than ESPN’s Joe Lunardi who coined the phrase “bracketology” and developed the “science” behind it has placed Gonzaga within his “last four in” category, representing teams which he believes should still make the tournament at the rate that they are playing.[1] Of course, beating St. Mary’s tonight on the road would be huge for the Zags whose fans have been on the edge of their seats over the past few weeks.

Let’s take a look at how the other “precipice teams” are faring and review the prospects of several other bubble sitters:

Baylor — Losing to Texas Tech hurt the Bears as did its much earlier in the season loss to Gonzaga. If it came down to Bears v. Zags, Gonzaga would go to the dance. Last night’s game against Missouri (too late for this publication) would have bolstered Baylor’s chances if they won. In any case, Baylor needs to pull off some upsets down the line to keep their fading chances alive.

Richmond — The Spiders have a signature win over the Purdue Boilermakers, but they are behind Xavier and Temple in the Atlantic 10 conference. That may not be good enough for Richmond as the A10 seems likely only to send two teams to the Big Dance this year. Yes, Richmond may end up being one of the very few 25 win schools whose hopes on post season play rest squarely on an N.I.T. invite.

Illinois — The Illini beat Gonzaga in December and have also beaten Wisconsin. Two quality wins, but at 17-11, they may have to win two more regular season games and hope that Minnesota continues to choke. Either scenario alone may be enough to help Illinois get in.

New Mexico — Three consecutive losses (last night’s game against UNLV not included) have hurt the Lobos who now find themselves as a tournament long shot. You can blame teams such as Butler and Memphis for getting hot down the stretch, forcing everyone to shake up their own bracket projections, perhaps removing New Mexico from post season consideration completely.

The Rest — Besides Butler and Memphis helping their respective causes, Maryland and Boston College may make it in, perhaps both. UAB, Tennessee and Valparaiso are other schools sitting on the bubble, teams with a ratings percentage index (RPI) below 50. Oddly, the Ivy League may place two teams in the tournament this year as both Harvard (#40) and Princeton (#54) have good RPIs.

About 10 days remain in the regular season for most teams with conference tournaments pending. Bubble teams can improve their respective positions by finishing strong down the stretch. Of course, winning a tournament is an excellent alternative as 31 tournament and conference champions will be awarded automatic bids this year.[2]

References

[1] ESPN: Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology

[2] SayCampusLife.com: NCAA Bubble Watch: Precipice Teams

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