Champ Week filled with potential bubble games
With the softness of this season's bubble, Championship Week -- in particular, the major-conference tournaments -- will have a huge impact on the eventual field of 65. Here's a look at some of the biggest potential bubble games on tap this week:
Big East first round: Syracuse vs. Villanova (Wednesday, noon ET, ESPN)
A classic "two teams enter, one walks out alive" game. The winner gets a shot at Georgetown in the quarterfinals, which could get it into the NCAAs. Which team is in better bubble position right now is irrelevant given that they play each other, and the loser is done.
Atlantic 10 quarterfinal: Xavier vs. Dayton (Thursday, noon ET)
This broke really well for Dayton, which needs to take care of Saint Louis before getting a neutral-court shot at the league's big dog. This conference tourney hasn't been especially kind to one-seeds, and the Flyers can really make people take another look at their profile -- one that includes wins over Louisville and Pitt -- with a win here. It's not clear whether a loss to (probably) Saint Joe's or Richmond in the semis would be too much to overcome, but first things first for the Flyers. It's also worth mentioning the potential UMass-Temple semifinal that could have a huge impact on both of those teams.
Pac-10: USC vs. Arizona State, Washington State vs. Oregon and Stanford vs. Arizona (Thursday, 3, 9 and 11:30 p.m. ET)
If Arizona handles Oregon State (0-18 in the Pac-10), we'll have three Pac-10 quarterfinals that have huge meaning for one team involved. Despite a seventh-place finish in the league and a sweep by both ASU and Oregon, the Wildcats still are probably ahead of the others in the bubble pecking order. That could change in a hurry if they can't beat Stanford and one or both of the others in this group wins their matchups. Despite a worse RPI, Arizona State looks better positioned than Oregon to absorb a loss here and still make the NCAAs.
ACC quarterfinals: Virginia Tech vs. Miami and Maryland vs. Clemson (Friday, 2:30 and 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Assuming the Hurricanes (NC State) and Terps (BC) get past their opening-round games, these quarterfinals are huge for both of them and Virginia Tech. It's hard to see a way for either Va. Tech or Maryland to survive a loss here and make the NCAAs. Miami has more wiggle room but would be wise to nab a win and make things easier on itself.
Big Ten quarterfinal: Ohio State vs. Michigan State (Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Bubble watchers could have fun flipping back and forth between this one and the ACC clash. The Buckeyes did what they had to do to close the regular season, beating Purdue and Michigan State at home. Now they almost certainly have to beat the Spartans again in Indianapolis to keep their at-large hopes intact. OSU might be on the right side of the cutline today, but that would be unlikely to hold up with a loss vs. the Spartans.
Big 12 quarterfinals: Baylor vs. Oklahoma and Kansas State vs. Texas A&M (Friday, 3 ESPNU, and 9:20 p.m. ET, ESPN Full Court)
Assuming the Bears (Colorado) and Aggies (Iowa State) advance to the quarters, these games matter for all the teams involved. Oklahoma looks like it has done enough to make the field of 65, but it's always nice to be sure. Kansas State has a third-place finish in the league (unbalanced schedule notwithstanding) in its pocket to go with a win over Kansas, but it needs a win here to feel better about its overall position. Baylor and Texas A&M both need to get this one. It's unclear whether either team can hang on for an at-large without it.
SEC quarterfinals: Arkansas vs. Vanderbilt and Ole Miss vs. Kentucky (Friday, 3:15 and 9:45 p.m. ET)
The Rebels first need to get past Georgia in Atlanta to get a crack at the Wildcats, but the last game of the quarters could be a huge bubble game. Kentucky looks well positioned right now to make the Dance, but eating a first-game loss here wouldn't be a great final statement. If Ole Miss can win this game, the Rebs' profile will need a long look. That would make it five straight wins heading into a semifinal, and there's a lot of decent stuff from nonconference play supporting their candidacy. Arkansas is on the right side of the cutline as we speak, but beating Vandy would make things feel a lot safer.
C-USA semifinal: UAB vs. Houston (Friday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
It's unclear whether either team can get in as an at-large at this point (although UAB has a much better chance), but it's obvious that the loser of this potential matchup won't. The winner almost certainly gets a nationally televised crack at Memphis on the Tigers' home floor for the auto bid, and maybe it would make a good enough statement in a loss to sneak in. First, UAB must handle Tulsa or East Carolina, while Houston could have a tricky game against UTEP.
MWC semifinal: New Mexico at UNLV (Friday, Midnight ET)
Get out for a few hours, get some fresh air and then come home and rock this late-night MWC throwdown, assuming TCU (UNLV) or Utah (UNM) doesn't ruin the party. The Lobos played an awful nonconference schedule and finished behind the Rebels in the conference, so they probably need to win this game at UNLV to stake a truly legit claim for an at-large. The Rebels' computer profile seems better than what's actually in it, so they would be wise to avoid a home loss and tuck themselves safely behind BYU as the league's No. 2 team.
Andy Glockner is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's college basketball coverage and is the host of the ESPNU College Basketball Insider podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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