Opportunities for quality wins were scarce for bubble teams on Saturday, so the goal for the day was to avoid a damaging loss.
Northwestern, UConn and Colorado State were among those that were successful. Seton Hall, Southern Mississippi and Washington were not.
Here's a look at the costliest losses suffered by bubble teams on Saturday, and what the ramifications of those setbacks are:
1. Seton Hall: All Seton Hall needed to do to lock up a bid after upsetting Georgetown last week was hold serve against bottom feeders Rutgers and DePaul. Not only did the Pirates not win both games, they failed to take either. A stunning 86-58 wipeout at DePaul drops Seton Hall to 19-11 overall and 8-10 in the Big East and likely knocks the Pirates out of the field of 68 for now. Wins over Georgetown, UConn, West Virginia and VCU are solid, but Seton Hall probably needs several Big East tournament wins to make up for its disastrous final week. Compounding Seton Hall's problems, it has now dropped to the No. 10 seed in the Big East, meaning it will have to play in the event's opening round against Providence.
2. Washington: Needing only a win at UCLA to clinch the outright Pac-12 regular season championship, Washington instead gave second-place Cal new life. The Huskies couldn't hold onto a nine-point second-half lead and fell 75-69, meaning the Bears can claim a share of the Pac-12 title if they beat rival Stanford on Sunday. How Saturday's loss impacts Washington's NCAA tournament hopes depends on how the selection committee evaluates the Huskies' unusual profile. Washington's 14-4 league record would be more than enough to secure a bid most years, but the combination of a historically weak year in the Pac-12 and zero noteworthy non-league victories may mean the Huskies have to win a game or two at Staples Center next week.
3. Southern Mississippi: Although Southern Mississippi may yet earn its first NCAA tournament berth in more than two decades, the Golden Eagles have made it more difficult on themselves by limping to the regular season finish line. They lost 79-75 to Marshall, their third loss in their final five games. Southern Miss (21-7, 11-5) has a gaudy top 20 RPI fueled by nine top 100 victories, but a closer look at its profile shows Memphis is the only surefire NCAA tournament team it has beaten. While solid wins over Colorado State and South Florida probably will help the Golden Eagles get a bid, they would be wise not to tempt fate by bowing out in the Conference USA quarterfinals.
4. Long Beach State: If it was already uncertain before Saturday whether Long Beach State could suffer a Big West conference tournament loss and still earn an at-large bid, it's now even more shaky. The 49ers lost 77-74 at second-place Cal State Fullerton, their first loss in Big West play after a 15-0 start. Long Beach State (22-8) had hoped to secure an at-large bid by playing the nation's toughest non-conference schedule this season, but wins over bubble team Xavier and fading Pittsburgh and a smattering of impressive close losses may not be sufficient. Therefore, while the 49ers pass the eye test as one of the nation's best 68 teams, they may need to avoid an upset in the Big West tournament for the third straight year to land a bid.
5. Alabama: In strong position to make the NCAA tournament after wins over Mississippi State, Arkansas and Auburn in its past three games, Alabama gave back some of its cushion on Saturday. The Tide lost 60-51 to Ole Miss even though the Rebels didn't have a single player score more than 10 points. At 20-10 overall and 9-7 in the SEC, Alabama still is in the most secure position of any of the SEC's bubble teams as a result of 10 top 100 RPI wins including marquee non-league victories over Wichita State, VCU and Purdue. Still, the Tide are not safe enough that they definitely can afford an SEC quarterfinal loss next week.
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