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Bubble Breakdown: Inspired Dayton notches most important win of the night

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Dayton's bench celebrates a Jalen Robinson 3-pointer (AP)

 

With less than two weeks remaining until Selection Sunday, the NCAA tournament bubble is beginning to take shape. Bubble Breakdown is the Dagger's daily look at the results that impact who's in and who's out.

In case the opportunity to boost its NCAA tournament hopes wasn't sufficient incentive for Dayton on Wednesday night, the Flyers discovered some further motivation when they arrived at Chaifetz Arena for shootaround.

Atlantic 10-leading Saint Louis already had set up ladders with scissors taped to them in hopes that the Billikens would clinch a second straight league championship that night.

Jalen Robinson sank a pair of key 3-pointers during a late 16-2 Dayton run, enabling the Flyers to spoil the party by handing Saint Louis its third consecutive loss. The 72-67 Flyers victory that was without question the biggest win of the day from a bubble team. It likely vaulted Dayton into the field if the season ended today and gives the Flyers a bit of margin for error over the next 10 days.

Add the win over the Billikens to previous victories against Gonzaga, UMass and George Washington, and the Flyers have a 21-9 overall record, four top-30 wins and an 8-6 record against the RPI top 100. The only anchor weighing down Dayton's resume is three sub-100 losses against Rhode Island, Illinois State and USC. 

Dayton has one remaining regular season matchup at home against Richmond. One win there, and the Flyers might be able to overcome a loss in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Two wins, and Dayton is a lock.

BUBBLE TEAMS WHOSE STOCK ROSE WEDNESDAY:

Nebraska (18-11, 10-7): When Nebraska survived a second-half surge from Indiana and emerged with an 82-72 road victory on Wednesday night, the Huskers didn't just keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. They also paved the way for the biggest basketball game in Lincoln in years, maybe decades. Nebraska's home game against Big Ten runner-up Wisconsin on Sunday is probably win-and-you're-in for the Huskers. In that scenario, Nebraska would have won 11 of its last 14 games including victories over the Badgers, Michigan State, Ohio State and Minnesota. Some hope would remain with a loss, but Nebraska would probably need a run in the Big Ten tournament. The better chance for the Huskers is a marquee game on their home floor.  

• Colorado (21-9, 10-7): The key to Colorado's at-large hopes is proving it's still NCAA tournament-caliber even with leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie out with a season-ending knee injury. That's why Wednesday night's road win at Stanford was so huge. It gave the Buffaloes another quality win sans Dinwiddie and improved their record to 7-6 without him. Colorado's overall body of work is plenty good enough to make the field of 68 thanks to five RPI top 50 wins including a victory over Kansas. As long as the Buffs don't lose at Cal on Saturday and lose in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament, they appear to be in good shape to earn an NCAA bid.

Other bubble teams whose stock rose: Tennesee (won at Auburn), Arkansas (beat Ole Miss), Missouri (beat Texas A&M)

BUBBLE TEAMS WHOSE STOCK FELL WEDNESDAY: 

• Stanford (18-11, 9-8): It was a minor blip when Stanford lost convincingly at Arizona State last week. It was still salvageable when the Cardinal got blown out at Arizona a few nights later. Now that Stanford has lost a third straight game at home against Colorado, however, the Cardinal definitely are slipping into jeopardy of misssing the NCAA tournament. Stanford has a top 50 RPI boosted by quality wins against UConn, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon and Cal, but the Cardinal also have only six top 100 victories total this season compared to 10 top 100 losses. Their final regular season game comes at home on Saturday against Utah. They may need to win that and avoid an opening-round Pac-12 tournament loss to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.

• Cal (18-12, 9-8): Stanford wasn't the only Bay Area team to lose a home game it needed to win. Cal followed suit hours later against Utah, falling for the third straight time and the seventh time in 11 games. Unable to accomplish a whole lot in non-league play this season, Cal needed a strong performance in the Pac-12 to make the NCAA tournament. A 5-0 start and a win at first-place Arizona put the Bears in good shape, but they're slumping and they boast only three RPI top 50 victories this season. Cal can still make a late push for an-large bid, but the Bears are probably in worse shape than Stanford. A win over Colorado is probably a must and doing some damage in the Pac-12 tournament will be critical too. 

Other bubble teams whose stock fell: St. Joseph's (lost to George Washington)

 

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