Jeff Eisenberg

Breakfast buffet: Five costly losses for bubble teams

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Pull up a chair and sit down at the breakfast buffet, a daily assortment of all the freshest newsworthy college hoops stories on the net. To make a submission, contact me via email or twitter.

• Costly loss, No. 1: Amid all the hand wringing over Robbie Hummel's injury for Purdue, it's easy to forget that Minnesota had a real chance at claiming an at-large bid had it won that game. Instead the Gophers blew a nine-point second-half lead on their home floor and lost on a Keaton Grant jumper with four seconds to go, effectively killing any chance they had at salvaging a disappointing season with a late push.

• Costly loss, No. 2: In a banner season for the Atlantic 10, it's truly bizarre that the league's preseason favorite now almost certainly won't be making the NCAA tournament. Dayton scored a meager 13 first-half points at league-leading Temple on Wednesday and failed to get a much-needed marquee win, meaning its at-large hopes are just about dead barring three straight victories to close the season and a deep conference tourney run.

• Costly loss, No. 3: Winning at BYU is a lot to ask of any team, but realistically that's what San Diego State needed to do to make the NCAA tournament. That the Aztecs put up a good fight for 30 minutes despite an ailing Kawhi Leonard doesn't change the fact that they probably need to win out and then upset either New Mexico or BYU in the Mountain West tourney semifinals to have an at-large case.

• Costly loss, No. 4: As a result of its pathetic non-conference schedule, Virginia Tech entered conference play with less margin for error than most power-six NCAA tournament contenders. That's why an 80-60 drubbing at middling Boston College was especially bad news for the Hokies. Suddenly they're just 8-5 in ACC play and in jeopardy of falling into the middle of the pack, somewhere they can't afford to be.

• Costly loss, No. 5: Wasn't it just Wednesday we were lauding Memphis for somehow finding its way back into the at-large picture despite a rough first couple months of figuring out how to play with less talent? Well, forget about that talk after a 92-75 loss to Houston pretty much ensured that the Tigers will have to win the Conference USA tournament to return to the NCAA tournament.

• It wasn't all doom and gloom for bubble teams. UNLV, Charlotte and Marquette each avoided disaster against teams well below them in the standings, some by slimmer margins than others. And Florida State avoided – yes, you're about to read this – a bad loss to North Carolina with a strong performance on the road.

• Southern Mississippi's Larry Eustachy and SMU's Matt Doherty are two of a handful of coaches trying to revive their wayward careers in Conference USA, prompting ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil to describe the league as "the land of misfit toys." Said Eustachy, "I've sat in conference meetings and thought, 'This is some frigging broken-down, dead refugee camp. It's kind of like Afghanistan."

• Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado broke the NCAA career shot-blocking record on Wednesday night and propelled the Bulldogs to the top of the SEC West in the process. "I just got on a hot spell," said Varnado, who needed all eight of his blocks to pass Louisiana-Monroe's Wojciech Myrda at the top of the list. "Shooters have a hot streak. I was on a hot streak just blocking shots. Everything that came in the hole, I just went and got it."

• An injury to Luke Harangody and a three-game losing streak had dropped Notre Dame from the bubble conversation, but the Irish took a step toward re-entering the picture with a strong defensive effort against previously surging Pittsburgh. The remaining schedule is tough – or maybe downright impossible – but if Notre Dame can win two out of three against Georgetown, Connecticut and Marquette, it will give itself a chance entering the Big East tournament.

• This scouting report from an anonymous coach who spoke to SI.com's Seth Davis is exactly why the draw is going to be so important to Duke's chances of advancing in the NCAA tournament. "The Blue Devils' main weakness is their overall team speed. If you can drive the ball against them, if you can beat your man, a lot of times they overplay on the sides so you have a chance to get to the basket." So you're saying a team with athletic, slashing wings might be a tough cover again this year for Duke? Hmmmmmm, good to know.

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